Wilmington Woman's Club Ch. 32byParis Waterman©
Late 1986, Conrad's Empire Grows
The city of Zitacuaro sits on the edge of Mexico's Tierra Caliente, an oven-like expanse of lime orchards and agave spikes. Sammy Pardo drove and Conrad sat alongside him, holding the map and acting as navigator.
"Don't worry, Sammy, we'll find the place."
"Christ, Conrad, this place is at the end of the world."
"Exactly why they can operate the way they do. Man's taking over the government's what I heard; makes it easier for us all around."
"Conrad, we could'a done a deal with them guys in Columbia. Would you mind telling me why you passed?"
"Sure. They want too much for the product. It's that simple. Later on, maybe they get more reasonable."
Sammy nodded and swerved to miss a huge pothole. The highway was anything but smooth.
"Funny thing," Conrad said, "these guys started as vigilantes. They were anti-crime, but push came to shove they learned trafficking in drugs was even more beneficial to them then stopping crime."
"Sounds like if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Sammy laughed, then lit a cigarette.
"Been a lot of killing in these parts. Don't shoot your mouth off. Follow my lead. All we want is a price. Way I heard it they'll sell it on the cheap, cause it costs them next to nothing to grow and process."
"You know best, boss," Sammy said as he slowed to read a road sign. "Hey, there it is. Says 30 kilometers. How many miles is that?"
"Damned if I know. Maybe a little more than 30 miles."
Cesar Larios, the leader of the cartel, was standing in the doorway waiting to greet them personally. Up to this point they had 'talked' through intermediaries. They did have one thing in common. Larios had product to sell and Conrad Gentner had to buy product to satisfy his European partners.
The two men shook hands. Gentner noticed that Sammy was all but ignored by Larios, and accepted it without comment. Larios offered Conrad a Cuban cigar, which he accepted. Larios then lit Gentner's cigar and then his own, blowing the blue smoke into the air and watching swirl through the breeze created by the air-conditioner. "Nothing like these Cuban cigars, eh, Mr. Gentner?"
"No, I can't say there is. It's a really fine cigar, Mr. Larios."
Standing off to one side was a rail thin youth, perhaps twenty years of age. Both Conrad and Sammy knew a hit man or stone killer when they saw one, and this boy whose name they learned was Nazario Moreno had already garnered a big reputation by posing as a supermarket bag boy who carried his intended victim's groceries out to the parking lot to get close enough for a head shot.
Larios wasted no time at all in showing Gentner and Pardo his cocaine. Pardo opened his briefcase and withdrew a test kit and began a series of tests to determine the quality of the drug.
Larios left them alone, and midway through the tests Sammy whispered to Gentner, telling him the product was testing out at 96% pure, a phenomenal level. This cocaine could be cut several times before being added to the heroin, meaning the overall profit was at least double that expected. Added to that, Larios' asking price was more than reasonable.
When Larios and his men returned, Conrad stood up and walked over to him and took his hand. "Senior Larios, it is indeed a pleasure doing business with you. Now if we can clear up one minor problem I will be asking you to provide an equal amount each month, except for December, when I want to double the size of the order."
"And what is this minor problem, Mr. Gentner?"
"Can you assist me in getting the coke out of Mexico?"
"Where would you want it to go?"
"I'd prefer Italy, Genoa preferably, but if you have another option it's alright with me."
"Genoa ..." Larios said quietly, and nodded to himself, "And your second choice, Mr. Gentner?"
"The States. Texas, Louisiana, California or Florida would be fine. But Italy is where it's going to wind up."
"Hmmm, let me think about this a moment, Mr. Gentner."
Nazario Moreno, who had been leaning against the wall, came alert at his words; a machete was on the table just to his left. Pardo and Gentner knew this might result in their being killed by having their heads cut off. Beheading was becoming a signature from this cartel. The former Mayor had met such a fate. His successor was Larios' cousin.
"Well, Mr. Gentner, we can deliver the product to Genoa. But I'm afraid it will cost another 15% over the cost of the cocaine."
Conrad quickly did the math and saw that he was getting a good deal. He nodded, and said, "I can live with that," hoping his words would prove prophetic, and that he would walk out of the cartel head intact.
"Good!" Larios boomed, "Let us celebrate our business dealing with a few drinks and dinner."
Conrad found the food to be surprisingly good, and had several more drinks. Eventually, Larios sat down next to him. "We talk some more, eh?"
"Of course," Gentner replied.
"You work for, or with Klass Bruinsma, is that not right?"
"Mr. Larios, you are remarkably well informed. I supply him with roughly half the cocaine he needs."
"I could easily do that myself, Mr. Gentner. Perhaps you can tell me why I shouldn't."
Conrad felt a chill run up his spine, but forced a smile and said, "Because, after they mix it with the heroin, three quarters of the finished product is sent to my sources in the United States and sold on the streets."
Larios nodded thoughtfully, and Conrad added, "I don't mean to offend you Mr. Larios, but I don't think you can do that. At least not for the foreseeable future."
Larios laughed and slapped Gentner on the shoulder. "I like you, Mr. Gentner. You have the right answers to my questions. We will do business together and both of us will profit greatly."
"That's exactly the way I see it, Mr. Larios."
"Tell me, Mr. Gentner, do you prefer blondes or brunettes?"
"If you're offering me a woman for the night, I must tell you I have no preference. I am certain that any woman provided me will be most enjoyable, and a memorable experience."
"Take the brunette. Let Mr. Pardo have the blonde."
"Thank you for giving us each a woman, and thank you again for helping me select mine. I'm sure you saved me from making a difficult choice."
Larios smiled and lit another cigar. But did not respond.
Both women were beautiful by any standard. Pardo took the blonde and almost danced her into his bedroom.
Conrad took his time, had another drink with his host, then bid everyone goodnight, and slowly escorted the brunette, named Rosita, to his bedroom.
Two weeks later, Klass Bruinsma called Gentner to tell him the shipment had arrived and how pleased he was with its purity. "You can expect the first of four shipments next week," he told Conrad, who breathed a sigh of relief now that the final portion of the job was at hand.
An hour later, Pardo came into Gentner's Bayonne office. "I don't know how to tell you, Conrad."
"Try telling me straight out."
"You better get tested for STD's. Me, I hit the fucking Jackpot. I got Syphilis; that fucking blonde cunt in Mexico gave it to me!"
"Okay, I will. How bad is your situation?" Conrad, recalling the words of Larios, "Take the brunette. Let Mr. Pardo have the blonde." Simply went through the motions with him.
Mollified, but with a trace of sarcasm, Pardo replied, "Bad enough. There ain't no cure, but they can what-cha-ma-call-it ... stabilize it. The bad news is in a few years I may go blind. That happens; I probably die a couple years after."
"Jesus, Sammy, I'm sorry!"
"Don't be sorry; get your ass to a doctor. Get checked out."
Sammy left, and Conrad couldn't help but smile. He'd get examined the next day, he wasn't stupid. But he had to hand it to Larios; he knew all the time which broad was infected. But letting her infect his customers ... he would have to consider his future dealings with the man very carefully.
Conrad poured himself a Scotch, and pondered that deal and future deals and decided to keep himself removed from as many as possible. He could use his local and European business as an excuse. And, when the opportunity presented itself, he would discuss the Mexican situation with Bruinsma, whose experience he valued.
With more shipments arriving daily, Conrad soon realized he needed to expand his organization in order to reach as yet untapped markets. He had no reason to venture into those areas already held by drug lords more powerful then him. So with Vic and Sammy, they looked at the less populated areas, taking care to avoid those with large populations of Blacks and Hispanics. The rational being that they were already targeted by others. With some reluctance, Conrad ruled out Union City, Jersey City and Newark. But he took on Paterson and Northern New Jersey and New York, beyond Suffern, NY.
Two months later, with no repercussions from the other drug dealers, he expanded his territories upward into New York State, venturing as far as Rochester and Syracuse. A month later, he expanded into Wilmington, Delaware and several smaller cities in Maryland, but avoided Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
It took him another two months of careful screening to find adequate personnel to staff and run another operation in Western Virginia, but found a number of capable people within the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech; and was pleased with their quickness in understanding the way his operation worked. In each sector expanded into, he also found two or three lawyers through whom he hired various members of the local law establishment to protect his drugs and personnel. This was a common practice within the drug world and paid handsome dividends over time.
Conrad also took on a new name, Joe Smith, which was used throughout his organization and made it more difficult for the State and Federal Agencies to find him should they manage to turn one of his people by showing them leniency in return for their testifying against his organization. In fact, none of his people in these areas had ever laid eyes on him or his senior partners.
Early on, the feds did arrest one of his people in Delaware, but before he could tell them anything of consequence, Conrad had him killed by one of the locals guarding him. It was made to look like a suicide, but the more intelligent members of the Federal Agency knew better. The killer was never found.
Marty took a call from Roger on Thanksgiving Day. He learned that Gloria was doing well, and on further questioning, discovered that Conrad appeared to be in the drug business.
"Hey, Marty, you know how it is. I mean, you hear things; you put two and two together and draw your own conclusions. What I'm saying is I ain't got nothing definite says he's in the business, but he was seen with Little Vic on a couple occasions, and Vic is certainly in THAT business. Also, he's got Sammy Pardo following him everywhere, so if figures Sammy's on his payroll."
"Thanks, Roger, I like to know where my money is, you know?"
Roger laughed. So Gentner was holding Marty's share.
"Tell Gloria I send my love, will ya?"
Sure, Marty, I'll do that."
"And should you put another two and two together I'd like to hear about it. And Roger ...."
"I appreciate you keeping me informed and I won't forget it when I get out."
"When do you figure that'll be?"
Marty laughed. "Years to go before they weep, Roger. Years to go before they weep," rephrasing the famous line from the Robert Frost poem.
Roger ended the call wondering what Marty meant by the 'before they weep' business, not having read Robert Frost's poems in high school.
Marty made three more calls after that in an attempt to learn more about Gentner's drug business. He realized he'd made a mistake when none of those called admitted to knowing anything about Gentner's affairs. He knew at least one of them would get back to Gentner, telling him that Marty was sniffing around.
Well, he'd figure it out anyway. He's far from stupid, Marty told himself, and settled back on his bunk and lit another cigarette.