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Viva la madness, p.26
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       Viva La Madness, p.26

           J. J. Connolly

  Jenna tried to back Jesus off, sympathy exhausted, her nasty side – the Zambrano side – starting to emerge, but he’s around every corner. In between being a nuisance Jesus was doing his monkey business all around Florida – shifting tackle, making money but spinning out of control.

  Papa Victor tracked Jesus down, got him back to Caracas, sat him down, had a quiet word with him – uncle to nephew – and very nicely threatened to do him serious and permanent damage if he didn’t stop pestering Jenna. Go away, make money, find a girl, settle down, have many children – but not with Jenna, you understand?

  Jenna transferred up to Columbia University in New York. Miguel could keep an eye on her there … Miguel’s doing big business in NYC these days …

  But now Jesus has got love and hate working double shifts, day and night. He oscillates between over-romantic, operatic love for his first cousin and …

  I’ll show that that bitch Jenna who I love and adore more than anything else in the world, who would complete my world, if she would only love me. I’ll show her! I can move and shake and make money – don’t need her or her brother or her fuckin father. I’ll Be A Somebody.

  But the outfits down there in Miami – Cubans, Haitians, Jamaicans – might be criminals but they aren’t stupid. Jesus creeps them out, they don’t trust him – he fiddles the weight, loads or money are short, he’s never where he’s meant to be, he lies unnecessarily, out of stupidity. Then he tries to front it out, tells them they’re the deluded lunatics, got their facts wrong. He smashes the granny outta product if he gets half a chance, slaps it too much. He gives the impression that he’s messy about his business, chatting too much information on the cell, dropping the family name, not paying suppliers, boasting to girls in nightclubs; generally behaving like he could easily get them all pinched or killed or robbed. One day he’ll be telling undercover Feds or DEA what a smart cunt he is, who he’s connected with, and what he’s up to.

  There are a lot of people out there who would have slotted Jesus, and buried him as a professional precaution. But he was a Zambrano. Killing Jesus would be an affront. What people didn’t know – an ironic contradiction, in retrospect – was that many in the Zambrano clan would have welcomed someone burying Jesus, very dead or still alive. Miguel would shake Twitchy’s hand if he could have his cake and his memory stick too.

  Sensible, quiet workers gave Jesus a wide, were polite but evasive; kept marching, eyes front, as he waved at them across South Beach nightclubs. Even drug dealers, smugglers, money launderers and crooked lawyers believe Missus Burns’ maxim that you are the company you keep. Miami is like any place, Bogotá or Lagos, Bangkok or Marbella – everyone is constantly checking out who’s with who.

  Jesus is always working with entry-level operators or bottom-feeders that he can control. He’s never getting fast-tracked – there’s no nepotism, and the fraternity have spotted it. It doesn’t take a lot of working out that if Jesus could command respect and close a deal, he’d be grooving on behalf of the family firm, the Zambrano Corporation. They keep him where they can keep an eye on him, let him have product at landed prices, extend him credit, let him use the slotting crews if things go bandaloo, but never let him know what’s really going on.

  Jesus had a fantasy that one day he’d get into something really hot and horny that his uncle and cousin would want a piece of. They’d come grovelling to him, on their knees, looking for a slice, and he’d tell them, politely, to fuck off. If only he could make his fortune independently, he’d win the heart of Jenna. They’d live in a big house on the hill, have bubbas and hold court. And then they, the Zambrano Family, would offer him a seat on the board. Dead simple. Jesus’ story takes a turn – turns into a proper Burke and Hare story.

  Santos was working for Jesus. His pet soldier, running freelance operations, using the family’s facilities – airstrips, diplomatic bags, bent officials, money laundering operations and the Venezuelan army. Santos and his squad of moonlighting Special Forces operators did the schlepping but Jesus always kept control of the money. And Jesus always kept Santos and the amigos waiting on payment – they never got paid in full – so Santos never felt in a position to bail. It was promises that kept Santos on Jesus’ leash. And Jesus could convince Santos of anything. Miguel suggests that because Santos has a rigid, soldier’s psyche it makes him easier to manipulate – less mental flexibility … Once you overran Santos’ first line of defence you could run riot. Tells you as much about Miguel as it does about Santos.

  Jesus had a buyer in Miami for his product, an ambulance-chasing attorney. In the course of an innocent conversation over dinner one night, the lawyer happened to mention in passing that human body parts, vital organs, fetched huge sums of money on the black market. They got to joking … Jesus asked how much a kidney would cost …

  Did you know that a heart transplant costs one million dollars? Including convalescence, all state taxes, and the beating heart?

  The lawyer chappie went on to tell Jesus, who was all ears by now, that certain rare blood groups are found in indigenous Indians – they have a higher percentage rate than the regular population …

  The lawyer was doing legal voodoo – defending malpractice lawsuits, liaising with ethical committees and dealing with seriously criminal insurance companies – for the medical centre that was doing a roaring trade in spare-part surgery. There was actually a shortage of donors …

  Jesus recruited Santos and his amigos, sold them his harebrained scheme. Santos was assured that there was a buyer, a market for the organs. Jesus went to work on him, eroded his resistance – these Aztec fuckers were sacrificing each other when the Span-yards arrived, cutting out their hearts to pacify the monkey Gods! This ain’t nothing new! On and on … Till Santos agreed.

  Jesus told the lawyer guy that he could get merchandise … Together they would make money. The lawyer switched off the analytical part of his brain.

  Off Santos and Jesus and the rest of their crew headed into the remote hinterland where three countries meet – Venezuela, Brazil and Columbia, high in the hills – and began harvesting. Men, women and kids – kids’ internal organs are a real specialised market.

  Jesus and Santos used a kidnapped doctor they had terrorised and threatened with castration to remove the organs. Using the same jungle airstrips and routes that smugglers use they transported them overnight, on ice, to Miami, for big money. But Jesus had no proper documentation, or information about where the organs came from – the necessary tests to determine the origin and blood type of the organ were wasting valuable time. It worked for a little while but soon Jesus was making the cargo fit the paperwork rather than the other way round. Jesus saw this blood groups business as an inconvenience – You got your stuff! Why are you persecuting me? Where’s my money? The lawyer decided it had all been a bad idea. Jesus couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, didn’t feel the need to justify or explain what he was doing – slaughtering natives for funds to keep him in his dazzling, but ridiculous, finery.

  But it’s bad karma to be strolling round with an internal organ that Santos’ crew murdered, in cold blood, some defenceless, indigenous native to obtain. Then the hospital started asking serious questions – medical, ethical and financial questions.

  Q. Like?

  A. Where the fuck are these organs coming from?

  The counterfeit documentation fell apart. There were comebacks that no kickbacks could make go away. Everyone ran for cover. How or when it all went bandaloo nobody really knew. The Zambrano Family, especially Papa Victor and Miguel – not exactly weighed down by heavy consciences – were sickened and knew there would be consequences … It’s the stuff of urban myth, the kinda gruesome tale people love to tell. Soon it will be everywhere …

  The Lawyer arranges a meet – the usual place. The Lawyer goes wired for sound; he’s maybe looking to cut a deal with the DA. The Lawyer confronts Jesus – I ain’t getting jerked around by some club rat!

s a good old boy, pride of Texas Tech Law School, brought up on preachers who dance with rattlesnakes then sniff coke off alligator-skin bibles. What he doesn’t realise is that Jesus has a devil on both shoulders. One thing leads to another. The Lawyer thought he was cross-examining Jesus – turned Jesus inside out, got him riled and loose-lipped, like they learnt him at Tech Law. The Lawyer started getting answers – not the answers he wanted. The Lawyer, being a double agent and government informant, threatened to notify the authorities … Bad move.

  So Jesus killed him; not in a fit of rage, more in shame and embarrassment. Jesus found the Lawyer’s wire. What me, Mort and Smiler heard last night was the beginning of Jesus’ penchant for recording his murders – with equipment courtesy of his first victim.

  This attorney guy had connections – appointments to keep, people to see – was hotwired-in and middled-up with the FBI, ATF and the Aryan Brothers and Dixie Mafia. Not people you need to make enemies with. Rumours spread like wildfire … The smell wafting back to the ruling junta of the Zambrano Family got worse. The missing lawyer was last seen in a parking lot, talking, with a party by the name of—

  Don’t tell me, I know …

  Jesus was now in grave danger of fuckin up the best-laid plans. This had diplomatic consequences – high-level people started putting distance between themselves and the Zambrano family. Papa Victor rang his disturbed nephew and cheerfully asked him to pop into the Miami branch office next time he was in the locale, just wanted to have a little catch-up … How about later this afternoon?

  Jesus was in Corpus Christi, Texas, doing a trade with some old buddies from Florida State Penitentiary when he got the call. He knew it didn’t sniff right. They used Jenna as bait, without her knowledge. Jenna’s gonna be so pleased to see you. The bait turned into the confirmation of all Jesus’ paranoid thoughts – they were out to get him. Jesus told them he was coming but went underground.

  Jesus’ plan to get with Jenna was turning to shit. Doubts creeping in … maybe he’d got it wrong about the trade in human organs. Jesus decided what he needed was some Positive Mental Attitude. And he needed money to keep him in the style to which he’d become accustomed. He needed a Big Score. Fate played a hand.

  Jesus was talent-spotted by a disgruntled accountant who was working for the Zambrano Corporation. Obese and greedy, bitter and twisted, he breathlessly pitched to Jesus in a motel, near Daytona Beach, over cheeseburgers. Jesus was recording the proceedings – it’s all on that little stick, Jesus, everything you need to know. Miguel is planning something really big. BIG! These fuckers are holding you back, Jesus, you’re the talent. Just remember me when … Maybe we could be partners … What ya saying, Jesus? Me and you?

  Jesus was saying nothing. The genie was out the bottle, had its hands around the accountant’s throat. Jesus killed him. Then he expressed his disgust at this betrayal of his family … by this treacherous pig … this greedy dog upstart … This … hold on … extremely fuckin useful source of information … Jesus – impulsive again – had killed the Accountant before he could fully explain Miguel’s BIG coup …

  Jesus stood over the corpse, shrugged his shoulders, then sat down and finished his cheeseburger. Jesus was starting to get a nice warm feeling in his shorts with this killing-for-pleasure lark.

  Jesus went underground but he still needed tank money, had to think on his feet, but doors were slamming in his face … One day he realised he knew a candidate back in Miami – a twilight mover and shaker on the scene, some smug New York banker who’d retired at thirty. And he was an acquaintance of Miguel’s. That was a nice bonus. Miguel would be extremely upset if anything bad happened to him … Jesus drove the dead accountant’s car down to see Next Victim.

  Jesus tortured and killed him, cleared his wall safe out … his new modus operandi. He got that hard currency he needed. Adios Miami! Jesus headed east. Next stop, London.

  Why London? Nobody can work that out.

  Q. Why hasn’t Miguel mentioned the three million pounds in the suitcases … only the cases?

  A. Maybe because Miguel doesn’t know about any three million?



  Morty’s turned into Roy – talking gobbledygook on the phone to Sonny, using codes – go west, you get it? He’ll know what I mean. Right now. And watch yer back.

  This sideshow is getting dangerous. The Jesus kid is bringing a lot of bad juju and heavy outfits into town; even after death he’s a nuisance. Morty wants a meeting with Sonny and Roy ASAP, down at Smiler’s lay-low.

  Morty’s head is even more spun than mine. He’s angry at the thought of spooks tailing us and he doesn’t wanna hear how charming young Miguel is. He thinks the offer – two hundred kilos of coke for the return of the memory stick and Jesus, in any shape or form – is chickenfeed; a better offer than that cunt Santos, but derisory. He thinks Miguel has grafted me, which, to a degree, he had.

  ‘It indicates what that gadget’s worth – a whole lot more,’ says Mort. But just to be on the safe side he decides not to tell the Terrible Twins – classified information. Morty wants to keep up a disunited front.

  Mort’s view – we take the two hundred kilos only as a last resort – is not a bad fallback position. And maybe Miguel’s right, and the contents of the memory stick are only of value to him – miles and miles of figures, recordings of his cousin doing murders, boys will be boys, Miguel’s conversations with every Tom, Dick and Horado, and some saucy shots of his sister getting charvered all over a hotel bedroom.

  We’re not blackmailers, suggests Morty.

  We’re getting there, I’m thinking.

  We made our way over to Smiler’s warehouse, making sure we weren’t followed. Smiler is excited but Sonny is telling him to shut the fuck up. I tell Sonny and Roy the highlights of the conversation with Miguel – gleaned from the hour with Miguel and careful study of the transcripts – Jesus’ infatuation with Jenna, the murders in Miami, the trade in children’s organs. Miguel was spot on – Sonny and Roy are fuckin raging.

  ‘This finishes now. Straight away!’ screams Sonny, stamping up and down. ‘A joke’s a joke, but carving up kids ain’t on! He’s going down a fuckin hole! Get everyone out there! Find this Santos! Geezer’s an animal! And this Jesus wanted to marry his fuckin cousin since she was seven? Seven! Why didn’t they pay the nonce years ago?’

  Jesus would get more than excrement through his letterbox, broken windows and regular therapeutic beatings if he behaved like that round here. Smiler leans against a wall, arms folded, silent.

  ‘Do you remember where they took you?’ Smiler asks me. ‘Did they blindfold you? Could you find it again?’

  ‘No, Smiler, they wanted me cooperative. It was cordial.’

  Sonny hisses. ‘Fuckin cordial? Can you believe this cunt …?’

  ‘Could you …?’ asks Smiler. ‘If I got you a street plan, work out which house it was?’

  ‘Didn’t they give you the address?’ asks Sonny, pure sarcastic. ‘So you could drop back some time?’

  Smiler ain’t biting – he appears to be totally zenned-out and bulletproof, the man of the hour. ‘If you could listen to the conversations inside that house,’ he asks, ‘would that help?’

  ‘You thinking of bugging it?’ asks Roy, liking what he’s hearing. ‘They’d be alert to infiltration but I guess you could hit it with directional microphones.’

  ‘Was gonna try something a little old-school, Roy. You’re right, the security personnel ain’t gonna let ya drop a bug. I was gonna get the rental details, then the landline number, and have a little eavesdrop. Be surprised how many people sweep the gaff but leave the telephone plugged in.’

  Roy nods enigmatically.

  ‘You reckon it’ll work?’ Sonny asks Roy. Smiler rolls his eyes.

  ‘I’m not saying it will work … Might have unplugged the phones. God’s truth,’ Smiler goes into nostalgia mode, ‘we used to listen to the Robbery Squad at F
inchley on their own receivers, ones on their desks. Old Bill taught us everything we know. No promises but …’

  Half an hour later Smiler’s hunch has paid off and he’s dropping the Belgravia house. The security team no doubt swept the premises for listening devices, but a telephone microphone is a listening device, only there’s no signal to detect. Smiler found the house, and using the telephones – after running the weak signal through enhancement amplifiers – we can hear Miguel and another Venezuelan talking. Smiler, who appears to have grown into his lab coat, is tweaking the sound, trying to get a better signal.

  The talk is mundane – about flights, airports, cars and food. The newly arrived cat obviously likes his grub. Miguel calls the guy Raul.

  Raul is Miguel’s half-brother, the child of Papa Victor’s first marriage. Miguel patronises Raul, talks to him like he was backward. Raul is permanently hungry; he wants food bringing in, burgers and milkshakes, in spite of telling Miguel, with some pride, that he ate three dinners on the plane, in the business class – bring me three. Miguel tells Raul that they’ll be going out to dinner but Raul wants a snack to keep him going.

  Sonny and Roy are badgering me to decipher what Miguel and Raul are saying but Raul’s accent is as heavy as Miguel’s is crisp, and Raul’s eating non-stop and talking with his mouth full. Whole chunks of Raul remain uninterpreted while Miguel sounds like he’s reading the evening news on Venezuelan television.

  And this evening’s main story is – Brother Raul has brought in some of his top troops. Bad news for someone, possibly us. Breaking news – the generous dowry to be paid to the fiancé’s father, the retired general, who is now a senator – it’s a lot of money but it’s not our money, it’s coming out of the bank – has been increased. Good news for ex-generals and their bank managers. Spicy gossip – they believe Jenna’s fiancé to be a gaylord. Bad news for Jenna, maybe?

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