Don't cross Zsapata
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Excerpt from Penitentiary Pacific By J Buchanan

Chapter VI


Shortly after 4:30 a.m.

Tensions were heated in the back of the midnight-blue stretch-limousine as it traveled up the long and empty avenue. Sterlin Jarris was trembling uncontrollably like a deer cornered in a lion's den. One minute he was at his home in the shower preparing for work. The next minute he was apprehended by a group of eight rowdy individuals whom he did not want to see. Now he was having a type of heartache that he had never experienced before.

The air-conditioner in the limousine was on full throttle but sweat was still irrigating uncontrollably from the pores of Sterlin's face. His stringy blonde hair was drenched with perspiration and his respiration was corroded. Breathing through his clogged nostrils seemed to be more and more difficult by the second.

Zsapata had forcefully squeezed a six fluid-ounce tube of quick-bonding glue into Sterlin’s mouth when they first snatched him. Sterlin initially coughed up some of the super-glue, but his tongue, gums and teeth were already instantly plastered by the paste. His teary eyes bulged with fear as he sat with his wrists lassoed together so tightly that his hands had turned from pale to a dull-blue color.

Sterlin was watching the eyeball movements of each of the eight predators who surrounded him in the back of the lengthy dark Sudan. Zsapata gave Pedro Brown a commanding stare and Pedro relayed that same authoritative stare to three of their six accomplices. Sterlin knew that he was about to be tortured and he knew exactly why.

Two of the brawny hitmen grabbed his forearms in a tight brace and held them straight out, while another one of the hitmen reached down to the right of the seat and pulled out a pair of old hedge-clippers with strong twelve-inch blades. Sterlin started to moan loudly as he anticipated his upcoming fate. Then he started to savagely shake his head and body like a fish out of water when he saw the sharp steel blades. The other three hitmen immediately grabbed his arms and shoulders and legs to keep his body still. Once they had him stabilized, Zsapata scooted forward in his seat and started to calmly speak.

“It is amazing,” he finally said as he looked directly into Sterlin's intimidated eyes. “Fear can have an adverse effect on one's usual courage.” He rubbed his chin and paused for a moment, then he continued with what he was saying. “Did you think that I would never find out? ... Or did you actually think that you were that clever?” Sterlin's fear escalated and his pitiful moans grew louder. “I glued your mouth shut because I did not want to hear your disgusting voice. So shut that fucking moaning up, before I put you to rest sooner than you think!”

At the time Sterlin would have preferred the threat.

“No explanation is necessary,” Zsapata resumed. “You're a traitor! A damn traitor! ... And we all know that terrible things always happen to traitors.”

The man who was holding the oversized garden shears began to tighten his grip on the clipper’s wooden handles.

“What you have been doing is pussy,” Zsapata scolded, as his deep, foreign dialect echoed in the car. “Very pussy! -- So since you have been acting like a deceptive feline, I am going to take your nine lives away from you.”

Sterlin had no idea what Zsapata meant, but he knew that whatever it was, it was not going to be pleasant.

Suddenly the henchman knelt in front of Sterlin and opened the shears. Sterlin’s heartbeat doubled when he heard the rusty blades scrape apart. He tried to move and jerk away but he could not, and before he knew it his thumb was sliced clean off of the side of his left hand. The pain made him grit his teeth together and let out a deep, agonizing scream through the openings of his nostrils.

“That's one!” Zsapata shouted in enjoyment, while watching the transfixed look of disbelief on Sterlin's face.

The sight of his thumb getting chopped was even worse than the actual physical pain. The blood circulation from his wrists to his fingertips was so stagnant that he could no longer feel the nerves splitting in his hands. After a small struggle, the hitmen managed to keep his body and arms still, while the other proceeded to clip off each of his index fingers. Seconds later, his two middle fingers landed on the plastic covering of the carpeted limo floor like frozen fish sticks.

By the time the clippings were over, Sterlin’s hands resembled fists. Nothing but sharp nerve pains shot back and forth from his arms to the back of his neck. He was in shock but he was still alive. They had to hold his arms down to prevent the blood from squirting everywhere. Sterlin cried and was silently begging for the misery to end. But the power to end the agony was all up to Zsapata, and as insulted and disrespected as he seemed, the pain was only going to get worse.

With an exception to his much crueler earlier days of coming-up in

North America, Zsapata normally refrained from being on the scene when someone was suffering the penalty for betrayal or for meddling in his business. But because Sterlin was once a trusted associate of his, it was like Zsapata had the utmost desire to witness and direct the last tormenting hours of his life.

When Zsapata's CIA informant showed him the surveillance proof of Sterlin selling information about the cartel to DEA officials, Zsapata automatically sentenced Sterlin to death. Now it was time for him to carry out the sentence.

“Your nine lives are over,” Zsapata said. “Time is up!” He reached out and grabbed the lower portion of Sterlin's face with a tight grip. “You betrayed me!” he yelled angrily while shaking Jarris's sweaty chin. “You tried to dishonor me!” He sighed for a moment before continuing to vent. “See, that is the problem with you greedy North American people. You are always trying to get over on one another; on your relatives, your enemies, your friends, on anyone!” He released Sterlin's face and then stared at him maliciously. “But it was extremely stupid of you to try to get over on me!”

The limousine turned onto a remote street and began to cross a narrow, one-way bridge over a slow-flowing creek. As Zsapata finished talking, one of the hitmen anxiously turned to him for permission to continue amputating on Sterlin. Zsapata nodded in approval and Pedro shook his head in brief pity as they began to clip off toe after toe on each of Sterlin's feet. By the time he was toeless, the limo was skidding to a quick stop in the back of a city-owned landfill building.

The chauffeur turned the ignition and the headlights off, and remained in the driver's seat. The henchmen quickly began to exit the limousine one by one, followed by Pedro, who got out and thoroughly scanned the desolate surroundings. Zsapata and Sterlin were still on the inside of the Sudan, and Zsapata had an evil stare locked in on Sterlin like a hungry pit-bull.

Pedro bent over to look inside of the limo. “¡Andele!” he said to Zsapata in a high whisper. “So we can get this overwith and get out of here!”

After continuing his fierce glare for seconds longer, Zsapata finally yelled, “Get him out! -- Get him out of my sight!”

The biggest two of the six psychotic hitmen acted quickly and in sync, reaching into the car and jerking Sterlin out like a weightless ragdoll. Sterlin landed on his shoulder and slid an inch or two before rolling onto his back. His mind was still functioning but he was only half-conscious.

“Annihilate him!” Zsapata shouted.

The men by the rear of the limo removed a six-gallon tank of gasoline, two fire extinguishers and some rope from the trunk, then they proceeded to the inside of the condemned building while the others grabbed Sterlin and dragged him in behind them. Pedro and Zsapata went to the trunk to lift out an empty, forty-pound stainless-steel basin that resembled a miniature bathtub. Then they hurriedly hauled the tub inside to where everyone else was.

“Over here,” Zsapata said to his hitmen, motioning his head in the direction that he and Pedro were going with the tub. “Follow us.”

They made it to one of the corners of the warehouse and sat the steel basin down underneath a bunch of pipelines that stretched from wall to wall. When Sterlin was brought over they stripped him naked of everything except for the buttoned-down shirt that he had on. Pedro took the long Olefin rope and threw one end of it over one of the pipe rails fifteen feet above their heads, and caught that same end of the rope with his free hand as it came down. He gave that end of the rope to one of the others to hold for a moment. Then he started to walk toward Sterlin, who was being held up by three of the burly hitmen. One of the men tied a tight knot around Sterlin’s mutilated hands while the other men grabbed the rope and prepared to lift him into the air. Sterlin's arms slowly started to rise over his head as they pulled down on the rope. Then the rest of his body began to follow, ascending upwards as if he was on a pulley, until he was dangling in mid-air.

Zsapata stood back with his arms folded high across his chest and a cruel grin on his face as he watched his cartel's Benedict-Arnold helplessly suffer. This seemed to give him a lot of satisfaction. He reached into his front pocket and found his book of diamond matches. “Fill the tub!” he said in an excited tone.

His hitmen immediately jumped to attention and proceeded to carry out his orders. After placing the huge basin several feet underneath Sterlin's disfigured feet, the shortest of the six hitmen opened the gasoline can and started to pour the clear solvent into the tub until the last drop was gone and the basin was filled.

“Now,” Zsapata said, as he slowly walked toward Sterlin with his head tilted upwards. “Since you have become such good friends with those drug enforcement pigs, I now consider you one of them. And it is a well-known fact that all pigs are bred to be roasted ... So that is what I am going to do, roast you!”

Everything became quiet when Zsapata took two matchsticks and struck them simultaneously on the side of the matchbox, sparking a small pyramid flame that produced a spooky glow in the dimness of the warehouse. Then after staring at the flame for a couple of seconds he looked up at Sterlin and said, “So long, Jarris. This is just a taste of what it will be like in hell...”

Zsapata took a step back, tossed the two matches into the center of the gasoline-filled basin, and watched the combustion occur. Upon the flame's contact with the pool of chemicals, there was a quick whisking sound that resembled a tornado current. Sterlin immediately felt the scorching bluish-orange flames as they began to plaster all of the skin below his waist. His brain went into shock and his body convulsed before his heart stopped beating. The scalding blaze engulfed his body and stretched so high that the rope blazed apart like a piece of thread. His corpse dropped into the pool of fire and knocked over the basin.

The men who were closest to the tub jumped back when it spilled over. The other two men started spraying their extinguishers to put out the fire. Pedro stood by watching it all in a daze. He'd seen and participated in many executions over the past years, but it was like this one especially stunned him. Zsapata on the other hand, was acting just the opposite.

“Thank you for your assistance, gentlemen,” he said to his accomplices, with a devious smile. “The limousine will be back in thirty minutes to pick you all up and take you home. Each of your bank accounts will be fed generously. I will be in touch with you all later.” He looked down and pointed at Sterlin's toasted body. “And make sure that these bones and his remains disappear ... forever!”

The hitmen looked at Zsapata in strict obedience. He nodded his head at them and then he turned around to walk toward the exit. Pedro followed him out to the limo and they both got in and it rolled away. Zsapata found himself a glass to go with the bottle of Scotch that was in the back of the limo. He poured a deep serving and mixed it with a splash of Seven-up, then he spoke to his driver on the intercom and said, “Walter, after dropping us off I want you to come back and pick up the rest of my men. They will be ready. But if they are not, then wait for them. After dropping each of them off where they instruct you to, go by the shop and have Harry clean up this car. Following that you can retire for the rest of the weekend.”

“Thank you sir,” the chauffeur said to Zsapata, wondering what type of execution his boss had ordered this time. Walter dared not to ask Zsapata anything about his business. He knew better. Besides, Zsapata was paying him too well for him to be concerned. He knew that meddling in his boss's affairs - other than doing what he was paid to do – could result in very destructive occurrences. And even though Alton Zsapata (Alverez Zsapata's legitimate business name) was a name that signified massive money, power and respect in corporate America, Alverez had six times as much money, power and respect in America’s underworld. He was known to have ordered more executions than Bloody Mary.

Alverez had teamed up with Pedro years ago, following that regrettable encounter as an adolescent with his former best friend Sergio. Shortly after their arrival in the United States in 2002, Alverez and Pedro took the money that they'd accumulated in South America and doubled it in less than a year. Even though it had not been difficult for them to sell drugs in South America, the drug trade in New Jersey and New York City seemed to be much easier because the demand was greater. Together they quickly monopolized the American drug trade by becoming prudent businessmen as well as tyrant drug lords. They learned and mastered the American judicial system like the back of their hands, importing over sixty-five percent of the illegal drugs into America through two major routes.

Alverez Zsapata Jr. had become a bishop in the game of life. He was living two different lifestyles at the same time. His wife and a majority of the other people who knew him were totally unaware of his dark side. Pedro Brown was a bachelor and had no relatives (only a few scattered kids) around to suspect that he was involved in such an organization. He kept his business undercover and made sure that everything he did was handled discreetly. He was the one who presented the idea to Zsapata about investing their money in something legal to serve as a business front. Zsapata agreed and they spent a large sum of money to purchase of the West Virginia Hikers, a promising soccer franchise that was new to the Major League Soccer Association. This turned out to be very profitable for them. Not long after that, Zsapata purchased twenty-four percent of a large opto-electronic corporation's stock. This also proved to be an outstanding financial investment, which opened additional investment opportunities that he took full advantage of, hence becoming the well-respected Alton Zsapata in corporate America. Business managers, associates, and public admirers would never have imagined Alton Zsapata to be responsible for the type of hideous lynching that he'd just partaken in. People who knew him viewed him only as a handsome and successful merchant who'd earned his fortune respectably. But those who really knew Alverez Zsapata Jr., respected, feared and obeyed him as if he were Zeus.

Alverez and Pedro made their moves with accuracy and preciseness, like brain surgeons. They had no use for lawyers because they had never been arrested. They only used two brilliant legal advisors. The few people who helped them operate their drug hierarchy did their jobs discreetly and collected executive salaries. Over eight million dollars in bribes and payoffs were disbursed every month, enabling them to keep most law officials and prominent politicians in their back pocket. Therefore, their drug cartel escalated rapidly and became one of the most profitable and organized forms of criminal activity in North America.

Zsapata had more than a half-billion dollars privately laundered through an intricate array of Norwegian and Swiss bank accounts. His cartel was responsible for smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine and heroin through Texas and hundreds of tons of opium through Oregon, to dozens of states in America twice a year, producing more than sixty-billion dollars in annual revenue. It was years of making money like this that enabled him to be able to easily afford the seven hundred and fifty thousand-dollar stretch-limousine that was turning into the parking-lot entrance of the Glenmont MARC rail station.

The shiny limo rolled slowly through the half-empty parking lot and approached a 40-L Sedan DeVille that was parked next to the entrance-gate. The chauffeur stopped to let them out, and after viewing the contents of a plain white envelope that was given to him, he graciously thanked them both before driving off.

Zsapata sat down in the passenger's seat and Pedro got in on the driver's side to start the car. They exited the parking lot right behind the limousine. Pedro pulled out a pack of Newport cigarettes when they made it to the first traffic light. He let the two front windows down because he knew that Zsapata could not stand the smell of carbon monoxide. Then he lit it up and took a pull before letting out a deep breath.

“Turn here,” Alverez instructed him, pointing to the right as the light turned green.

Pedro eased the DeVille into the turning lane and made a left while puffing on the nicotine. “You are not going home?” he asked Zsapata, after blowing out a stream of smoke that collided into the inside of the windshield.

“Not for a couple of hours,” Zsapata replied, as the caddy proceeded down the street. “Just keep straight a few more miles down this road.”

Pedro moved to the middle lane and accelerated on the gas. Zsapata took a long sip and laid his head on the headrest while letting the wind blow through his shaggy hair like a palm tree in a hurricane. Zsapata was in his late forties but he’d aged gracefully. His build was athletic but his demeanor was like that of a violinist. He was five feet eleven and his skin was the color of an oatmeal cookie. He kept everything on his face shaved except for his bushy eyebrows, which matched perfectly with the kinky, sandy-gray hair on his head. People admired his rugged look of innocence.

Pedro was only five feet seven but he had the aura of a giant. His skin was chestnut and his wiry hair was always in a ponytail. He flicked his cigarette butt out of the window and said, “You know Alverez, I think now we will probably have to take extra precautions with our shipments.”

Zsapata swallowed a mouthful of Scotch and took a deep breath. “Yes I know,” he replied. “I have been thinking about that for some time now. I am sure that all of those, deceptive federal agents have been squeezing a shit-load of information out of that bastard Sterlin. So it is more crucial now than ever for us to be extremely judicious with everything.” After another deep breath he continued. “Now, let us evaluate the situation. We already know that, A, both of the shipments will occur on the same week, so we will not be able to be together; and B, this year the shipments up in Oregon will be twice as big as the shipments down in Texas ... So you will probably be needing some help up in Oregon.”

“Exactly,” Pedro agreed. “But there is no one on our staff who knows enough about the Oriental shipments to be of any assistance to me.”

“That is true,” Zsapata sighed. “...I wish that I could go up there with you, to help make sure that each and every shipment is accounted for and distributed with no problems ... But I have to go down to Texas to conduct those operations.”

Pedro said, “If I knew a bit more about the South American cargo, we could switch. I could go down to Texas and you could go up to Oregon.

Zsapata started to rub the side of his face with his left hand. “Hmmm. That would be a great solution ... But how long has it been since you’ve been down to Brownsville with me?”

“It has been quite a while,” Pedro said after thinking about it. “Since those few times back when we first came to the states.”

“Do you think that you remember those procedures well enough to go down there and do it alone?”

Pedro paused shortly, then said “Probably not ... Now that I think about it, I guess it would be a little too risky for us to switch.”

Zsapata was silent for several moments. Then he swallowed the last gulp of his drink and cleared his throat. “Let me see,” he began to contemplate. “The first few tons of opium will be arriving in Oregon right before sunrise on Wednesday and Thursday, and the last of the shipments will be arriving on Saturday morning...” He went deeper into contemplation. “I should have the Texas operations completed by Thursday. So I can leave there and fly to Oregon to help you with the rest of the northwest imports.” Then he thought and said, “But wait ... I probably will not be able to make it up there until Thursday evening, and by then I would be too late to provide you with any type of useful help.”

After stopping at a red light, Pedro lit another Newport and took a deep drag. Then he offered a thought to their concerns. “Well, I can only think of one other person who would be capable of providing me with the assistance that I will need ... We should consider Kyme Lee.”

“Kyme Lee?” Zsapata questioned. “Why him?”

“He is the only person in our cartel who knows enough about opium to help me inspect the cargo, plus he speaks three Asain languages.” Pedro’s eyebrows rose as if he had a bright idea. “Also he can be useful in helping me conduct the submarine drop-offs and the negotiations.”

“Those do sound like valid points,” Zsapata recognized, “but Kyme Lee is a foreign-ambassador. I do not know if it would be wise for us to allow him to become hands-on with our cartel functions ... We need to just continue to use him for security and protection only.”

Pedro took another puff as the traffic light changed colors. “I agree with what you are saying,” he said as he pressed the gas pedal, “but who else could we use? Who do we know who can actually help instead of getting in the way?”

“I am not sure,” Zsapata said, “but I have a bad feeling about involving Kyme Lee. He does not seem as if he would be up to it.”

“Yes, he is kind of shaky,” Pedro admitted. “But this may be our only alternative ... Kyme Lee has been providing us with premium opium connections throughout Asia for the past ten years. If anyone is experienced enough in dealing with our Oriental suppliers, it is him. He obviously knows how to correspond with them, because he always gets us exactly what we need, year after year.” Pedro took a deep breath and started to shake his head as he continued. “But I do agree that we should not allow anyone into our realm who is not actually a part of our cartel.”

“Right,” Zsapata said. “But ... Maybe I am being too paranoid.”

“And maybe you are not,” Pedro defended. “After all, we are importing double the cargo than normal. And due to the financial importance of these shipments, it does help for us to beware.”

Zsapata remained quiet while Pedro finished his point. “... But at the same time, I still can not think of anyone else more qualified to assist me than Kyme.”

Zsapata stared out of the car into the early morning gloom, seriously beginning to consider Pedro’s suggestion. He really respected Pedro's opinion because they had been partners for over twenty years. A lot of their success had been due to Pedro's input. Zsapata rarely ever respected or even entertained another person's opinion unless it was his financial advisors or Pedro. No one else made sense to him; except for a close associate named Stanley Rheely, who just so happened to be his inside source for government information.

The street that they were on led them to the outskirts of the metroplex toward an area that looked like a business district with bright lights and tall buildings.

“Turn left here,” Zsapata pointed.

Pedro turned onto Kiam Street and Zsapata started to gaze again, further contemplating the idea of permitting Kyme Lee to go up to Oregon. When Pedro reached the filter of his second cigarette he tossed it out. Then he put his left elbow on the window seal and rested the side of his head on the palm of his hand. After several minutes, the silence in the car was finally broken.

“Alright Pedro ... Okay ... I think you may be right. We really have no other choice ... I guess I will go ahead and get in touch with Mr. Lee and let him know what we need him to do.” Zsapata was silent again for several seconds, then he continued. “You two just make sure that all of the cargo gets transported scrupulously and quickly from the submarines ... I want you to personally see to it that all of the freight makes it through with no problems. This year's Oriental opium cargo adds up to more than our South American cocaine and heroin cargo combined,” he reiterated. “Which is why I really wish that I could go up there with you. But unfortunately I cannot be in two places at once ... So I will be depending on you to successfully complete the Oregon operations. For extra protection I will send five additional henchmen along with you. Also I will contact Mr. Irwin, and tell him to be make sure that his coastguard pests are nowhere near Astoria when the submarines arrive.”

Pedro nodded his head with a short and serious smile. “That sounds acceptable to me ... Actually it sounds fool-proof. We can have our smuggling operations successfully completed by the end of next week,” he said. “... Not long after that we will be somewhere reclining in the shade, sipping on Van Gogh gin and updating our financial records.”

“No, you will be sipping on gin. I will be sipping on Highland Park scotch,” he said, smiling at the thought.

The Cadillac rolled steadily down the pavement until they approached a fifteen-story building with a huge glass entrance that showcased a fancy, illuminated hotel lobby.

“Pull over there,” Zsapata said as he pointed at the building.

Pedro made a U-turn and the car hooked a semi-circle in the middle of the empty street. After they were parked next to the curb by the Penthouse Towers parking lot, Zsapata reached back and picked up a large purple plastic bag from the back seat floor. He placed it on his lap and loosened the two strings at the top of the bag.

“What is that?” Pedro asked, shifting the gear to neutral and pushing the parking brake button.

“A couple of gifts,” he replied, taking the larger of the two boxes out of the bag first. “This is for my wife,” he said as he took the top off of a rectangular shoebox, revealing a shiny pair of quarter-length Mauri boots for women.

Pedro admired the silky gators for a few seconds and said, “Very nice. Just her style too ... And who is the other gift for?”

Zsapata closed the shoebox and put it back in the bag before pulling out a slim, much smaller box. Then he opened the bracelet-shaped box and slid out a platinum and gold Fendi watch that had a huge diamond on the twelve and on the six. “This is for my lady friend who is waiting for me up in suite twenty-three.”

Pedro's eyes broadened as he peered at the timepiece. “Let me guess,” he said with a smile. “That must be for the 'first-lady'.”

“Very good,” Zsapata said, handing Pedro the watchcase that enclosed the watch. “She will like this, don't you think?”

Pedro took the small timepiece out of the case and said, “Like it? She should love it...” He maneuvered the face of the Fendi and the reflection from the streetlights sparkled off of it. “I see Karrin has become one of your favorites.”

“She is a great mistress,” he admitted. “No doubt at all ... But I would never want to marry anyone like her.”

“Why is that?”

“Because she is married, remember? Married women are supposed to be pure, only touched by their husbands. Any woman who is married and has an affair with another man is not pure at all, and deserves the worst for betraying her husband,” he said sincerely. “... I am sure that Karrin's all-mighty husband would go insane if he actually knew how she licks me from head-to-toe.”

“Good point,” Pedro said as he gave the chronometer back to Zsapata.

“Regardless of how beautiful she is,” Zsapata said while placing the expensive timepiece back in its case, “she is not the type of woman that a man would want to call his wife.”

“I see what you mean.”

“But she is wonderful as a side woman,” he concluded.

“I agree,” Pedro said, digging into his front pocket to get his Newports. “That is probably why I am not married.”

Zsapata slid the chronometer-case into the inside pocket of the tailor-made blazer that he had on. “I will call you sometime around noon today,” he said, “then we will get in touch with Kyme Lee and fill him in on the latest adjustments. The three of us will meet at the Raddisson later to go over the proper smuggling procedures.” He reached back and dropped the bag onto the back seat before getting out of the car. “Keep that in here for me. I will get it from you later.”

Pedro nodded his head and then stuck the butt of another cigarette between his lips.

“I will see you in a few hours,” Zsapata said before closing the car door.

“Alright amigo. Until later.”

Zsapata turned around and walked into the hotel lobby through one of the building's four sets of automatic doors. Pedro put the 40-L series in first gear and accelerated down the street.

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