Politico

Politico Politico

Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary

Politico is a neo-noir story inspired by the corrupt politicians, businessmen and lower level flunkies in my city's history (Miami, Florida) The novel follows the story of exilio politics (touchy a subject at best) political bosses, a venial mayor, a rabid police chief, a tough lawyer, a few mobbed up call girls, the mafia, Jewish syndicate boys and little Georgie Brac, son of a multi-millionaire immigrant and bonafide reckless loser with a heart of gold. This is not the complete novel...

Summary

Politico is a neo-noir story inspired by the corrupt politicians, businessmen and lower level flunkies in my city's history (Miami, Florida) The novel follows the story of exilio politics (touchy a subject at best) political bosses, a venial mayor, a rabid police chief, a tough lawyer, a few mobbed up call girls, the mafia, Jewish syndicate boys and little Georgie Brac, son of a multi-millionaire immigrant and bonafide reckless loser with a heart of gold. This is not the complete novel...

Chapter1 (v.1) - Politico

Author Chapter Note

Politico is a neo-noir story inspired by the corrupt politicians, businessmen and lower level flunkies in my city's history (Miami, Florida) The novel follows the story of exilio politics (touchy a subject at best) political bosses, a venial mayor, a rabid police chief, a tough lawyer, a few mobbed up call girls, the mafia, Jewish syndicate boys and little Georgie Brac, son of a multi-millionaire immigrant and bonafide reckless loser with a heart of gold. This is not the complete novel...

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 19, 2012

Reads: 520

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 19, 2012

A A A

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Politico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Antonio Armenteros

Miami, Florida

antonio7612@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

Miami by moonlight—balmy winds and royal palms. The salty spray of the restless waves, of black seas with no memory that lap at the fringes of what was once a smugglers haven. Those days are gone now. Beneath the waves of a turbulent history. Behind a sad nostalgia for the absurd.

The skyline to the north: Limelight and glamour—false as a whores smile beckoning. Wide hipped. Gloomy. Dul-dul-dullard. She was a bait and switch. She was muy caliente and a blue ball tease. She dazzled. She beemed. She sucked in chumps and spit them out dead-broken-dry.

The Key Biscayne causeway to the east: roadway to the last pristine bastion not yet tarnished by the multitudes that roam this place and murder beauty—for the time being. Following the southern curve of the penninsula; little chicken shit isles marking Largo, Marathon, and Key West. Further still and ninety miles across the Florida Straits lies Cuba. A little island in the Caribbean with ancient memories for dream fodder and a restless soul for reality. Still a pipe dream. Still a wet dream. Still the reason for the surrogate home its exiles have created in absentia. Close. Close enough to just barely brush with your fingertips but far enough to remain elusive. The exilio were asleep. That boat had sailed its bon voyage with a bearded madman at the helm.

The moon hid behind a cloud bank. The balcony of the luxury high-rise afforded her a better view than most. She watched and waited for several dreamy moments for it to make an encore and when it did she felt that much more human. That much more alive. The wind caressed her hair and left her feeling light and equally as free. But too soon it was over. Too soon the memories came back. Chaotic, suffocated, desperate and surreal. Memories of poverty which no amount of money ever cleansed. Grit beneath the skin. Shadows in the soul.

The music from the bathroom wafting; Madonna when she was young and sexy. Madonna when she still had the voice and the style. Madonna before the sycophantic whoring holier-than-thou bullshit. Singing about material girls and material worlds. Diamonds and furs and...and...and murder?

She waited a moment and felt the music fade under the rustle of the wind. It came back bringing another sound with it. She pushed the sliding door opened all the way to let the blinds dance. The gunpowder smell had cleared sufficiently—a little incense did wonders in confined spaces. The lights of south beach were too far off to be seen as anything but diffused glows against the gray clouds in the eastern horizon. South beach with its trendy shops and hungry crowds. With the music that blended from dozens of sources and still held sway. Utterly classless and unrefined. Perfectly fitting. Her friends would be there, the people she had dreamed her whole life of meeting only to find out it wasn't as good as the fairy tale. Nothing ever was, she imagined, as good as what was imagined. She had been here long enough to put it together: Miami was a tramp, the citizenry were classless swine wrapped in silk and linen. One had to do what was necessary to survive. She took it to heart. Material girls in their material worlds. Time to get ready. The hard part was over, getting past the night doorman and valets would only be a matter of averted eyes and fifty dollar tips. She didn't feel one bit apprehensive of the final act.

She stepped inside and ducked into the spacious bathroom. On the long counter, her outrageously expensive boutique purse, the small .22 with the pearl handle and her best Christophe brush. She powered off the stereo and went to work in silence.

The stunned moaning coming from the living room was getting louder, yet the inner tranquility of her mind was bothered neither by pity or sorrow nor instinct of flight. Instead, she put on her lipstick carefully and evenly, rolling her lips in the mirror to ensure no clumps to the gossamer shine. She plucked a square of sanitary paper and blotted them carefully. The wadded up tissue went into her bag. Next she applied gloss and seemed satisfied with the sheen that made her look hungry with desire. It was just the right touch of the dramatic, which she confessed, she had a weakness for. Afterwards she picked up the heavy brush and ran it through the gorgeous thick curls of the beautiful auburn wig, held in place as it was, with pins, and checked her purse to make sure she had everything she had shown up with.

She didn't seem worried about fingerprints because she had been to this condo many times before. Her prints, along with those of other girls and some of the city's most powerful men where in there to one degree or other. People lived here. People fucked here. No surface was spared. Most of the gatherings had been conducted in the living room, but the bedroom held some incriminating secrets of its own—and not just for her. She picked up the lady Remington, checked the clip and switched the safety off.

The moaning was clearer, defined through a mans voice of melting shock and pain. It was also beginning to grate on her feelings of peace and serenity. She scowled to herself in the mirror then smiled when she saw how silly it looked. There was really no reason to get angry, even thought she kept losing the beat of the tune she'd been murmuring. Leaving the bathroom she walked slowly across the master bedroom with its drop dead view of Brickell bay—dark now beneath the moon—and out to the sparsely furnished living room.

She ignored the bleeding man propped up against the couch cushions, mildly surprised that he was still alive, and took one final look around.

No shoes left behind, no pantyhose under a seat cushion. Hair fibers would come up negative—no follicle polyester would mean a wig. A barrage of fingerprints would mean conventional dusting would become a nightmare for even a seasoned tech. Her handler had explained it was only a matter of time before the authorities compiled a list of known associates with her name right at the top, but her chances might be greatly improved if she sanitized the entire suite. She decided to disregard his last stipulation. She didn't want to be there longer than needed. In her hedonistic orgies—which were too numerous to count accurately—she might have even grabbed a chandelier.

Invisible evidence was everywhere nowadays. Getting herself hyped to sanitize the place might take all fucking night. By the time she'd finish, the maid would be coming in to do her rounds and stumble across her running the vacuum. Bam—another death. For surely the old woman would have to go, and where would that leave her? It was too much work and too much to contemplate. She had time for neither. Then she smiled. Of course! The maid. Overlooked, unnoticed and underpaid. The maid would clean up when no one was around. And she'd seen the old woman pushing her cart of tissue rolls and squeegee pail and detergent racks. She suddenly felt better. The maid would have been allowed in to tidy up. It was something she had never considered. It was something that made perfect sense. Other than the dying man the room looked fine. What would have stood out would have been blood smears or carnage caked prints. Frenzy prints. The type that got you years in prison or a one way ticket to the hereafter courtesy of the state. After she shot him, she hadn't touched him. Hadn't stepped anywhere near his blood. Hadn't done much of anything really, except muse at the night and listen to music as the stench of human waste and gore, gunpowder and incense drifted away to a somewhat more tolerable aroma. Looking around the elegant surroundings and silk covered Venetian blinds brought back no memories. She was suddenly above this place, but she forced herself to take it in.

Cocaine on the glass topped table gleamed under the track lighting halogens. It looked innocuous and harmless. Iridescent in its flaky crystals so that it seemed a fitting addition to the lavish decor of the Miami elite. She had never used it, and even rarer in her profession—did not drink. A little Prozac and pot couldn't be considered drugs in the strict sense of the word could they? She did indulge in those on occasion, but not the hardcore coke or heroin. Not the ugly drugs.

Her eyes fell on a big glass of sherried whiskey—Glenglassaugh forty year reserve—his last drink. The black and gold Nat Sherman's he liked on occassion. Nothing out of place. The Miami CSI's would figure it out in a matter of weeks of course, would know what had happened with their forensics and graphs, but by then whatever evidence remained would be long trampled and contaminated, she reasoned. After the techs removed the body and mopped up, some yuppie lawyer would move right on in and never know. These types of places were at a premium—grisly murder or no grisly murder—the market would move on. It always had.

She felt confident, she felt her ruse would work and was somewhat amused with how easy it had been. Ever since she had arrived in this city, she had been pampered and adored. Looked after and protected. No one would ever suspect that she was capable of cold blooded execution. No one at all.

She looked down with no emotion. And he, well aware that death loomed, could do nothing to keep from sobbing as the spasms rolled through his limbs and bloomed in his belly. The first shot had caught him unawares as he had been placing his drink down on the end table. The noise itself had been barely audible, so that he was only mildly surprised at the intruding flash glare before he staggered back to look at the spreading warmth of his shirtfront, which was instantly a deep crimson. The look on his face had been priceless. She had giggled as she pointed the gun again and slowly squeezed the trigger.

The second shot he took was directly above the heart, where he felt the small lead ball actually enter and furrow into his ribcage, and it was this shot that unbalanced him and sent him sprawling into unconsciousness. It was in this state that his bowels had voided and his bladder had seemingly burst.

Now as he struggled to breathe, his eyes fluttered and he tried to think of how much time had passed. He knew it had been almost midnight when he blacked out, and therefore it was still early enough by Miami standards for the partygoers to be out hell raising. Even if they had not been, he knew that the penthouse by very nature, was afforded not only luxurious space but also excellent soundproofing.

Her eye caught sight of the flat screens remote and she pressed the power button with a knuckle. Magnum P.I. beamed out in the Hitachi's crystal clear HD LCD. The volume was always loud—it seemed to her that he had been losing his hearing for some time. Tom Magnum leaned against his fire engine red Ferrari and took a chastisement from the faggoty Higgins. The bleeding man's eyes darted helplessly between the screen and his assassin. He seemed to know what was coming.

"For...God's sake...why?" he pleaded in a thick voice, holding out his blood smeared hands to ward her off or appeal to some un-shown mercy. She never looked in his direction. She appeared unmoved by the performance.

Making her way past him, she stopped at the door and turned slowly. She reached for a velour pillow and dropped it on the side of his face where it settled between the crook of his elbow. She casually pointed the .22 into it where his head would be, and fired once. The sound muffled by the stuffing and overshadowed by the television came up short of a whimper. The body slid. The body came to rest with a heavy plop. Bloody duck feathers puffed out and floated. She slipped the gun into her bag and walked out the door letting it slowly click shut behind her of its own momentum. Cameras in the halls would catch the hurried steps of a woman with averted eye's and stunning hair. Cameras in the stairs would catch a speedy departure in shadow and harsh fluorescents. She bolted. Eyes on her feet and the diagonal print of the hallway carpet. No one in the hall. No one near the elevators. She ducked past and into the stairwell careful not to grab the knob. Thirty flights down—no time to think. She slipped her heels off and darted. Quick feet on reinforced concrete. The tight space got her dizzy. Sweat rolled under her wig. Time zipped, she zipped with it. She descended. She moved quick, quick, quick. Quiet on the landing. No noise discernable through the heavy steel door. She slipped the heels. She slipped the designer glasses that obscured her face. She pushed the door open with her hip and hit the lobby. Marble and brass. Glass and chrome. Cold air. Her sweat froze. Her muscles twitched. Smell of fresh cut lilies. No one in the lobby proper. Sound of water cascading in a tropical rain forest—a tape on an endless loop. Ambiance music that helped still her racing pulse. She walked casually across the room. She coughed raw nerves and tried to relax her breathing. Her heels announced her. Doormen dressed in white and gold bowed. They didn't recognize. They greeted. They gawked. They fawned as she pressed the money into their hands. They tripped and fumbled to get the door. They watched her rush into the humid night. Valets watched, bellhops watched, old men sized her up and down.

She made the street—a solid curve with no traffic. A couple walked past lost in each others eyes. They didn't see her. They didn't see anything but themselves. Her car parked across and under a lamppost. Two door sports coupe. Euro chic and fast. She beelined. She ducked inside and changed. In minutes the gun, the mobile, indeed the dress and shoes would be in the tepid Atlantic Ocean and she would be with the people who would swear, with the utmost sincerity, that she had never left their side all night.

Ch1

 

"It's a disgrace, first that son of a bitch Hernandez gets busted for rigging votes, and then that fat bastard José Resíos literally fucks Hernandez's wife, possibly insuring the saps imprisonment."

"Disgraceful."

"All politicians are the same, I mean it's always something with the knuckle heads at home." said a thin man peering into his mug. He was a few years younger than his counterpart, with far less bulk. He wore a beautifully tailored pinstripe in gray worsted wool. Beckman, the bigger man, wore a navy blazer over elegant tailored khaki slacks. They radiated money. They radiated smarts. Charles Beckman, late forties, salt and pepper under control and a neatly trimmed beard. Terrence Gold, not so late forties, reddish brown hair balding at the crown. Miami's best in a word.

"Not always Terry. Often, but not decisively always."

It was almost two-thirty in the afternoon, unlike most Miamians, high priced lawyers enjoyed long lunches. The downtown location of Gordon Biersch did a brisk business and was now emptying out as the sexy secretaries and salespeople made their way back to their jobs on the Brickell strip. Beckman and Gold sat amidst the newly deserted tables casually sipping cold beer and nibbling on corn chips. The large plasma above the bar crisply beaming out the sickening, but sadly all too common display of corruption in politics that the city was all but used to.

"Ok, fine. I know what you're thinking. José isn't exactly a politician. But he moves around them enough. This to my thinking says he should know better."

"It's not new, Terry. Shocking maybe, but it's not original."

Terry seethed "But he fucked his client’s wife!"

"It's not new. Unethical as fuck, sure. But not new." explained Beckman patiently.

"Ok, forget that. You're right, forget I said it. But what about this little vote falsifying yuppie. What about him?"

"What about him?"

"Don't tell me you haven't noticed the trend, Charles. Every fuck up nowadays ends up being a brother in arms. Only they aren't our brothers."

"It's a growing problem, Terry. But what's to be done about it? This country's laws. It's this country's problem."

"The problem is the Cubans, they still think they're in Havana. Their turning our town into fuckin' pigshit and there's nothing we can do to stop it." said Terry with a shrug. Though he dealt with them, he secretly hated the majority of the Cuban-Americans that he knew. By nature they seemed corrupt. But before he was done talking, Beckman was bristling.

"Do you hear yourself, Terry? Seriously." He sipped his beer.

"The problem isn't the Cubans, it's Cuba. The tide turned buddy, there's finally more of them than us. That once brittle minority is a powerhouse and it's only natural they vote their boys in. But it's what those fuckers do once inside that create the problems we see."

Beckman had practiced criminal law for three decades in Florida. He'd seen first hand just how badly the Cuban's could screw the pooch, but unlike Terry, he had no hatred in him to speak of.

"Take that turd Castro, sure he dicked the country, but Batista was really no better. Batista was a dictator, only with Castro the son of a bitch is a red dictator. I'll bet my loafers that guy never knew just how many would make their careers on these two factors," He held up a hand and counted on his fingers.

"First off, how much they despise him and his commie progeny and just how many guidable exiles will vote for their representatives based solely of this as a platform. That it'll all revolve around a family name or two, and a winning smile hiding the hearts of born criminals, no better than that hypocritical commie cocksuck—."

Beckman trailed off as his eyes jumped to the TV. A news bulletin had flashed on in swirling red and blue. Terry, intently hanging on his boss' every word took longer to realize that Beckman would now never get back to what he was saying, and after he saw the face in the news brief, neither would he.

The short Cuban-American newscaster with the DUI and manslaughter beef spoke with ill concealed relish about the latest stain upon the magic city.

As the news of the city manager's grisly murder splashed across the screen the newsman actually giggled as he explained what he believed had transpired. Not what police had in evidence. Caution be damned.

Beckman was glued to the screen as he watched a replayed image of a body bag being carted out and onto the waiting van.

The city manager, a much criticized public official—even by Miami standards—was part of the old boy network—that is to say, of the old Cuban boy network.

His appointment had been widely viewed as blatantly political and it was even suspected that his diploma from the University of La Habana was forged. Still, as with many politicians and businessmen, it was always who one knew. And César Olivero knew many people.

Now as they wheeled out his stiff corpse, and three men hefted under the weight, the pompous prick newscaster grimaced dramatically as if to imply that Oliveros' known acquaintances were less than savory, when even he himself had claimed a tight bond with Domingo San Isdro, the notorious racketeer, drug dealer and some said, though never proved—murderer.

Beckman sneered at the screen as he shot up and nodded to his junior partner.

"Take care of this Terry, I gotta make a call. This is gonna be big. Maybe we can get the case, if los muchachos haven't beaten us to it." he said meaning the other criminal attorneys of their caliber. The Mariñatez & Brúez firm.

"Stefano Mariñatez is probably out playing tennis or golf or something. That's all he does lately. He's probably nowhere near a TV."

"Be that as it may, we shouldn't sit on our laurels here. We won't be the only ones wanting this."

"That's true."

"Can you cover this?" He motioned to the table.

"C'mon, are you serious here?" Terrence shot his partner a look. "Go, go make your call. I'll square it away."

Beckman smiled. Beckman walked. He cradled his mobile phone in a quiet corner of the bar nearest the Brickell avenue entrance.  He plucked at his beard and wondered where Stefano Mariñatez was, and if he was making a similar call. He would hopefully find out soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the City of Miami drooled over the public shaming of Alberto Hernandez's short lived political career, and despite being led away smiling in his shiny cuffs courtesy of the Federal Department of Law Enforcement alongside the State Attorney's people, the whole sordid mess was relived when his lawyer, old man Resíos, was seen around town showing Hernandez's brokenhearted wife the sights. Bed hopping was one thing, bed hopping with the man who was supposed to make sure your significant other walked, was something else. With him acting the part of a low class sleezeball by openly admitting an affair, it did raise some ethical questions about his former client’s defense. Particularly that maybe, just maybe, Resíos hadn't fought quite as hard to protect his client’s interests. Not if he was banging the wife before and not after the verdict had been handed down. Now it seemed ready to get worse. The city manager, the well heeled, well hated and truly incompetent for anything other than swindling the public, César Olivero had been found murdered.

The supposedly staunch family man and anti-drug crusader was found with over an ounce of 85% pure Peruvian flake as well as an apparent fuck pad his wife didn't know about. If he had been in tight with the police commissioner they might have put the kibosh on the drugs and infidelity as much as possible, but because César Olivero was such a vocal opponent of Miami PD's Chief Delaney and also because Olivero was such a hypocritical cocksucker, the police didn't do a single thing to stop it. The press corps went apeshit at the news and this was headline stuff. Everybody loves a good juicy story, but to be of note in Miami, corruption has to be a speed fueled pig-fuck. The regular stuff just won't do.

Beckman knew all about it, he had seen more corruption in the past ten years than ever he had in the drug fueled 80's. When despite the spike in violence, Miami had still been under native rule and had less imaginative corruption. Also the era was relatively innocent—although it should be noted that the innocence hadn't lasted long.

Now nestled in the cool and plush office, Beckman cleared his schedule and placed three private calls. The first to Edward Gray, the editor-in-chief at The Miami Herald. Predictably, Edward was not in at the moment, so he left a message with his personal secretary, with strict if polite instructions to call him back when he found a moment. Edward was a friend. Edward would give him the dirt outside the scoop. Edward may or may not call; he wouldn't take it personal either way. Beckman next put a call into Chief Delaney, who answered his own line, and by the sound of him, was already drunk.

"Jimmy, it’s been a long time." said Beckman leaning back in his chair and looking up at the ceiling panels of his office. A few would have to be replaced, yellowing as they were around the corners. The chief's voice came through clear, and despite the deep brogue, it didn't sound at all surprised.

"Well hello, Charlie. The last time I had a social call from you was never."

"I get like that at times, Jimmy, but if it makes you feel better, I'm not starting now." said Beckman with a chortle.

"Well that's a relief lad."

"I need to know what's up with the case just broke over the wire. Call it personal interest."

"Personal interest my ass, Charlie. Be truthful lad, you're happy to see that wind bag go like he did."

In the background Beckman could hear ice twinkling, a sure sign that the chief was pouring a stiff refill. He cleared his throat.

"I had no love for the man, Jimmy, but who the hell would be happy he got clipped? And I need to know if you have any suspects—off the record of course."

"This entire conversation is off the record, Charles. And you know what we do. No one yet, though the old boy loved to fuck call girls, so who knows."

Beckman finally sat up and rested his elbows on the desk.

"Call girls huh, but what, no prints? Nothing?"

"What's your stake in this, Charlie? What do you care?" The voice was amused, but the question was valid. It hung there between them a moment.

"I want the defense naturally. I want my name dropped to the suspect, when you finally bring him in."

"Naturally. And what makes you think Ellis won't take it?"

"Ellis won't, he stays clear of politics. Remember he turned down Theodore Johnston." Beckman was remembering the District 12 commissioner caught siphoning money from a charity to pay for his drug binges and his Eldorado. Ellis Sussman, a one man firm—famous in and out of court—didn't take the case no matter what was offered. Brúez finally did, and ultimately lost.

"Who could forget that imbecile?"  said the Chief, and then added.

"I'll keep you in the loop Charlie, but I'll tell you now, you might wanna extend that list to include a few 'she's' as suspects."

"What? The wife?"

"No not the wife. She was at The Breakers in Palm Beach at the time of his death. The wife checked out."

"Explain." said Beckman tapping his teeth with a pen.

"What's to explain? The technicians are pulling prints out of that place even now, they been at it for hours. And despite the regular players, they've turned up quite a few local call girls."

"A hit that quick?"

"A hit that quick, lad."

"A call girl?" Beckman stopped tapping. He was incredulous.

"That's right, Charlie, rental pussy. So far three good matches. Sweet Mary knows just how many more we'll pull out of this mess before we're done."

"That fast?"

"That fast. Prosti priors and misdemeanor drug crap. Been setting off the bells and whistles all day."

"Any names so far?"

Ice tinkled over the line. Delaney took a deep breath and laughed.

"Juanita, Carlita, Ramona. Who the fuck knows huh?" he said with a shrug. "To tell the truth I haven't asked. They've pulled so many prints out of that place that I'm almost afraid to."

"But that doesn't mean someone else didn't do it though."

"It sure doesn't. But since you want to tell me my business, why don't you come down here and sit behind my fucking desk."

Beckman laughed. It was vintage Delaney, he didn't take offense.

"That chair's not tall enough for me."

"A hearty fuck you my German friend." Another pause. Another belt. Another laugh.

"You wish you had my Irish balls, Charlie."

"And you my strong German back, Jimmy."

"That I would, the better to carry around these things."

"So you'll remember me then?"

"Who could forget that charming mug of yours?"

"To the suspect?"

"I'm not senile, lad. I said I'd remember the face."

"I haven't gotten it in the paper much lately, so who knows."

"It's a blessing my friend. Look at Olivero, he got it plenty the last few months. See what good it did him."

"Keep me in the loop Jimmy, and tell me when get around to the Chivas thirty-five I sent you last year."

Delaney took what sounded like a deep drink, and hiccupped slightly as he set the glass down.

"I will, Charlie. I'm working through some poitín the fellows back home sent across the pond, but I sure will."

He said his goodbyes and afterwards drummed the desktop with his fingers as he thought it through. It was three-forty-two pm and the chief was stewed. Despite the apparent mirth, the man was upset. His 'usual players' comment didn't jibe. Beckman knew who the players were of course, but it didn't seem all that likely that other politicians would be caught dead in that place, high-end whores or not. There was something missing, and on his third call he figured he knew what it was.

 

 

 

*  *  *  *

 

 

Olivero lay prone on the slab, his chest cavity was held open by titanium spreaders and his sternum had been sawed cleanly at the center, it too was held open by a spreader bar of cold surgical steel.

The heart lay still and pale under the congealed blood. Bone and intestines gleamed under the hot lamps of the autopsy room as Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Félio Betancourt, fumbled with the liver. Partially excising it in order to dig out the bullet fragments as his junior diener took photographs of each and every step. Time dragged. Everything took forever. The intense public scrutiny had snowballed and now the whole case hinged on public opinion. The fucking thing could turn into a circus. Olivero’s family tried filling emergency injunctions to bar an autopsy but the state begged to differ. This was an official police investigation into murder; rights to privacy were trumped by the right to full disclosure.

Betancourt had enough bodies to contend with and didn't need more, but suddenly the dead city manager got a front row pass. He imagined that the family just wanted something else to put in the obituary. Something other than the shameful truth. He looked at the diener and motioned for him to photograph the liver in situ before he removed and weighed it. He stole a glance at Olivero's face. The bullet in the head had finally put out his lights. Whoever gave him the coup d'grace must have done it out of mercy. His liver was shredded straight through by the cheap lead fragments. His stomach acids had leeched out into his vitals. Without immediate medical attention, he'd have died in great agony. Even in death César looked like a mean-spirited son of a bitch. The long sallow face of a grave digger was waxy pale already and beginning to fall in on itself.

Bushy salt and pepper eyebrows and bluish lips, thin and cruel as they had been in life. A little cauliflower in the right ear from when he boxed in his youth. An old scar above his left eye where someone with a mean hook had broken the skin. All in all just the small imperfections acquired over time and at the hands of experience that chisel out a life. There was nothing notable about the man. No remnant of nobility or beauty of character. He had always been an asshole, and now he was just a dead asshole. Betancourt didn't understand how a man so shady and blatantly corrupt had ever been appointed into any public office anywhere. But 'anywhere' wasn't the true part of it, his answer was that anywhere but in Miami, it would have never happened.

"You should have stayed at home more amigo." said Betancourt with a comical shrug and moue and didn't explain himself when the assistant looked up from his task with a questioning glance.

Olivero didn't answer, and it didn't seem likely he would anytime soon. Betancourt turned back to the body and removed the liver and placed it on the scale. He watched the needle zip around behind the oval glass.

He read the weight off and took the liver back out and placed it on a metal tray. The junior men would make sure to take biopsies and blood samples to check against disease and other illnesses. But it was clear to him what killed the man. Bad judgment. Pure and simple. One would think that Olivero, with all his close friends and partners in corruption, would have known that by now. The family had requested their own private doctor perform the autopsy but the state overruled them a second time. First autopsy was to be performed by the county, after Betancourt's initial findings were filed and if the family still wished, they could have a go again before the funeral services. But that would be at their cost and the matter might take longer then required. If the family chose that route they have to pay for the daily refrigeration of the body in a private facility.

Betancourt knew the family was at the very moment fighting in court for emergency injunctions that would never be allowed. The county had the case, it was theirs to build. It was also theirs to ruin. His orders came down and he'd follow them to the letter. Every painfully tedious procedure had to be followed closely and documented extensively. César wasn't the President but the rotten bastard was a politician all the same, his estate would require all the information available and wouldn't want to be bothered by a painful exhumation order. The only thing the family had achieved was to put a gag order in place. No one could talk to the media without first going before the judge. Media blackouts didn't do much for the damage that had already been done. WSSN had broken the story and metioned the drugs. The cops knew, the press knew and now the public did as well. The judge who signed off on it was a relative of César, a somewhat competent career man who wisely kept himself distant most of the time. Betancourt snapped his gloves off and tossed them into the wastebasket. He nodded to the assistant and let him scoot by to frame the close up shots of the chest cavity while he rummaged for a cigar. He found one and walked it over to his desk, plopped in the chair and slipped on his reading glasses. Whenever possible he liked to delegate authority to the younger men and women in his department. It gave him time to peruse the newspapers and junk mail that piled up on his desk. He pushed his lunch aside and ignored the red flashing light of his answering service.

"Ernesto, make sure you get the blood work picked up on time today, there can't be a foul up on this one." He yelled in the young man's direction. High pitched whining noise came off the Polaroid flash mounted on the bracket tripod. The young man waved.

"I got the feeling that this won't stop here, though if were lucky, I'll be wrong and we can put him behind us."

"You think we'll find anything in the blood work? It seems pretty clear he died as a result of the gun shots."

"He drank and used cocaine. But who knows what else is in there."

"His brother had a problem with drugs." added the assistant without looking up.

"What else have you read, eh?"  snapped Betancourt as he flipped through the papers on his desk.

His paunch bumped up against the cold steel drawers. The chair squeaked under the weight of his bulk.

"I read like his sister-in-law did as well."

"She still does, Ernesto. Being human isn't easy work. Drug addiction isn't hereditary."

"Being a fuck up apparently is." said the man with a laugh. Betancourt didn't reply, he'd admonish him, but the young man was right. Still, for the sake of propriety he said something offhand and without much enthusiasm.

"That's no way to talk about a dead man my young friend. And pay a closer mind to what you're doing, I don't need more headaches than the ones I already have."

The young man took this without rebuke. The camera whirred on in the silence for a few minutes.

"She's not related to him you know?" said Betancourt after a few moments.

"What?"

"The sister-in-law isn't part of his blood kin."

"But she was around them enough."

"Ya." He waved from his desk. "She was. Concentrate on that there alright." The diener was good at his job. But he didn't want to get drawn into a deep conversation. Debates took up time like the dead never could.

"You think he'll be missed?" Betancourt looked up above his glasses, the young man stood with his hands on his hips and the camera resting across his chest. He considered the question.

"Well, as far as the community is concerned, no I don't think so. But he's not the last of the great corrupters..." Betancourt shrugged fatalistically. "Unfortunately, we have quite a few more floating around this town."

 

 

 

 

 

 

*  *  *  *

 

 

 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Gus, forty-five and slight of build paced his office in calf length socks and BVD's. He was a pristine man and his dislike of even the slightest wrinkle in his slacks—which bordered the compulsive—caused him to neatly fold them on a valet and therefore conduct business in his undergarments whenever possible. His staff was used to his idiosyncrasies. Overlooked mainly because most powerful men had such little foibles and also because he was hailed by many of his contemporaries as pure brilliance personified.

Gus thought himself a visionary; he believed he had the drive and ambition to transform his city—by any means necessary—into a smaller scale New York City or Los Angeles. At least insofar as its art/entertainment complex's and beautiful facades. Infrastructure and real job creation was a different matter. He wasn't that kind of visionary.

The biggest project so far of his career had been the building of a performing arts center in the heart of downtown known as The Miami Project. Plans which had not only drawn criticism, but near violent protest. Tax payers knew they'd end up footing the bill no matter what was said, and on top of which the public had a healthy distrust of the coconut heads that ran their banana republic. More insulting was the proclamation that had been originally made in the three page press release; The Center for the Performing Arts would benefit the citizens! After it was abundantly clear that the majority of the citizenry didn't much care for it. They wouldn't have given a go-ahead to build anything so massive anywhere in the county, unless of course, it had been a stadium. The developers had said it was for the betterment of the city and its tourist dependant industry. The mayor had said he agreed fully even though no one else did. Tourists swung by Miami for the hot beaches, the hot women and the flowing rum. No one in their right mind would consider taking in a show in a city as rude and crass and utterly classless as the great MIA. Nevertheless an estimated 4.7 million would be needed to pull off the massive structure with an additional 2.9 for the parking and concessions. A figure likely to climb, some annalists said, into the double digits.

Gus was for the project; his wet dream was something to rival Sydney's Opera House in scale, and New York's metropolitan in draw. The citizens had been stunned, against a closed vote, against criticism, against protest—the project had plowed on. To make matters worse, it wasn't the only thing going wrong with the city. A stretch of South Dixie off of Interstate 95 was expanding. An old retainer wall would be taken down and placed a bit further in from the shoulder proper. The only problem was the North Grove residents that lived behind it had the votes to nix the issue. But suddenly the votes didn't mean dick. The city claimed eminent domain and screwed the citizens out of their rightful say.

Like the new wall would matter. Like it wasn't only a matter of time before some rich kid asshole, drunk in his daddy's corvette plowed through it at a speed run. Problems. Always a fucking problem.

Now the man was tension strained and cardiac red, but it wasn't from the rum in his coffee, it was the death of the city manager, and the implications of what it would mean.

He stood on the plush Burberry carpet and drained his drink when the call was put through. He looked at the blinking light for moments before picking up the receiver.

"City of Miami, Alex speaking." he said rummaging around his desk blotter for his pack of Dunhill's.

"Gus, its Charles Beckman, I'd like a moment of your time."

Gus cursed under his breath, damning his secretary six ways from Sunday. Marilynn apparently didn't understand what no fucking calls meant. Still, Beckman had considerable juice in the city asides from being arguably its top criminal defense attorney. The man was a political animal, an animal who hated the necessary politicking of politics. Well connected and self made, Beckman had to be treated just right. After the call, he'd reprimand the secretary.

"Yes, Charles, It's good to hear from you. How can I be of assistance?" The mayors voice was neutral, almost blasé. Unaffected by the crisis of the day.

"Good you asked, and it’s nice to hear from you too." Beckman hated small talk, he was as brief as could be within the bounds of propriety. Despite disagreeing with many of Gus' political strategies, he had used his influence to insure Gus got the financial backing he'd need. Gus might have a short temper when busy, but he also knew his manners, and better yet, not to offend his friends in higher places than he.

"Well naturally I saw the news, caught the ending segment on channel seven in fact. They said some things about Olivero that don't quite jibe with his image. I was wondering if you knew some truth to them."

Gus suppressed a wince. Typical in a situation like this, the money always got scared. Beckman's angle didn't make sense. The question itself was oddly phrased. He was snooping.

"How the hell do I know, Charles? Jesus, I'm the Mayor not the man's keeper."

Silence met his answer. Charles noticed Gus had stressed the fact that he was mayor. Slowly, in his own time Charles came back again. Wheedling in, as Gus knew he would.

"I'm not asking about his keeper, I'm asking if there's any truth to it. I didn't agree with César's appointment as you know, and you have your own discretionary powers, but what I'd like to know is why something like this happened." There was just the slightest tinge to his tone.

Gus went appoplectic.

"What's truth? Truth can be twisted inside out by skilled men. You of all people know this, Charles. What I know of him doesn't portray him as anything other than what he was. A hard working civil servant, who may have gotten caught up in some mid-life cris—."

"Don't stiff me with that horseshit, Alex,” interrupted Beckman. Outraged that he'd be lied to.

"I'm not a damned reporter and I'm not one of your guidable constituents. What I want to know is if he was buying call girls. That's it. Don't feed me that bullshit about the man you pigeonholed in despite the outcry. I know he was far from pristine when he got Rothstein’s seat."

Gus fell into his chair and lit the cigarette. He sighed and exhaled and cradled the phone against his flushed face. Lying wouldn't work with Charles. César was a dirty choice, but he had been a friend. And politics was about friends. Truth and right didn't enter into anything. They were best left as abstract illusions which the public hung to. The only thing that mattered in politics, were allies.

"I have no idea Charles, I didn't hold his hand you know."

"Well that's just it, you're going to draw some backlash here, and it won't be just over César's little brother."

Gus rubbed his temple and pressed the phone into his ear. He hated to be reminded of the past, and now Beckman was doing just that. Bringing into account how Roly Olivero had once held a cushy job on the School Board and flushed it down the toilet with his well publicized crack cocaine fiasco. Pristine Roly, always well dressed and perfumed. Good old Roly buying stolen clothes sold out the back of hijacked trucks and splashing on that heavy Ralph Lauren Safari, the better to mask the stench of his other extracurricular activities. It didn't help matters that Doña Roly had been seen in recent years roaming the pequeña Habana streets she had represented as a council woman—a zorched out junkie—willing to sell any service for a crumble of coke. Sad for such a caliber of woman to have fallen so low, Women's Club member and all. Roly also occasionally pulled in an insulting memoriam every year or so whenever the Miami Times felt its readership lag. It's a good thing he was dead already. Shot in Overtown trying to rip off a small-fry dealer when he wouldn't take the wife in trade.

"Roly is old news, Charles. It's got nothing to do with this." Alex furiously rubbed his temples. He felt his toupee wiggle.

"Says you. The media boys will eventually rehash old grief and you know it. Question is what are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going live in less than an hour. I'll look into it." He said in a noncommittal tone.

"Good to know. Delaney didn't seem that concerned. Quite happy actually. He seems convinced there's truth to this."

"What's your point, Beckman?" asked Gus with frustration. Angry that he couldn't end the call and rip the secretary a new one. Angry that he didn't have his police chief present to verbally dress down and slap around.

"My point is perhaps there is more to this. Perhaps it doesn't end here, with a disgraceful man's death."

"I'm insulted, Charles—"

"You'll get over it." Beckman bristled. Angry for the first time with the evasive and incomplete answers he was being given.

"Excuse me?" Gus leaned in as if to somehow show his authority to a man who couldn't see him.

"No I don't think I will. You've been feeding me some bull about this man, and here it is: Egg on the face. This isn't your city to run, Alex. You should have never appointed that man."

"I do indeed run this city."

"You shouldn't have appointed that man." stressed Beckman again.

"I run this city." Gus followed suit.

"For the moment, yes you do. But if you ever want to hold anything else in this city you will listen closely to what I have to say. Otherwise you'll end up holding your hat."

Beckman was cool and collected, and yet his voice was hard and cold. He felt cheated for having introduced the then fledgling lawyer to the money people in his rolodex. Alex had promised a visionary change to his city's flagging public image. Instead he had installed almost every friend and relative into positions of considerable power throughout the local county government. He had outraged the Arbor Day Foundation when he declared palm tree's as neither 'palms' nor 'tree's' and therefore not worthy of protection. Imagine the city without a few palm trees. Now imagine it without any. Thousands had been ripped out and mulched up. The decorative tree's that took their place began rotting and shriveling in the hot Florida sun so that they had to be replaced again and again and painfully again out of city budget coffers. He had green lighted projects over protest and was constantly rumored to be funding a private agenda—namely his future retirement—at any expense.

It was now Gus' turn to bristle. He smiled coldly into the phone as if Beckman could see him. His evasive manner was gone.

"You have some nerve speaking to me that way, Charles. You are very mistaken if you think you have some privilege over me."

"I do indeed. I'm a member of the damned community—even though for you that means little. I sit on the board of Green-Turnbull and Centre Union, which practically bankrolled your campaign. I'm partially responsible for you being in that office to begin with, and I'm telling you now that if you had anything to do with this man's indiscretions you should really consider getting out while you can."

Beckman had only intended to test a theory. To probe the man as to any knowledge of the nefarious, but Gus was already on the defensive, and that hinted at something unspoken. Alex was trying to play it tempest-in-a-tea-kettle style. Alex was trying to pull his political ass through a really bad political fuck-up like all politicians did. Gus was a master at passing the buck and dodging the straight questions. Beckman wasn't an amateur. He knew when something was not right. And Alex Gus was definitely not right.

"Is that a threat counselor? Are you threatening me?"

"You're a fool Mr. Mayor. I mean that with all intended respect due your station." said Beckman with as much sarcasim as he could muster.

"I'm wondering if I should place a call to Emilio after this, see what he thinks about the whole affair."

And then the oddest thing happened. Expecting a reply or some cold retort, Beckman held the phone closer. Silence met him and then quite suddenly the sound of a phone being slammed reverberated loudly in his ear. He stared at the phone a moment and gently replaced it on the receiver. Staring at it for a long time in wonder. Gus' rudeness was not totally unprecedented. And yet, Beckman found himself somewhat insulted. His mind was racing. His pulse raced with it. He sat a long time and looked around his suite. His mind played devil's advocate with a thousand different questions and two thousand possible answers. After a while he came up at a draw. Every question he raised could be answered with a political spin. Every answer was an endless riddle in and of itself. Replaying the conversation in whole began to pound at his temples. The pounding threatened to turn into a full blown migraine. One little question turned into one big hard-on. He couldn't let it go. He couldn't gauge it as much more than a hunch. Beckman had irritated the man, but it was not until he mentioned Gus' most powerful backer that he had lost his cool altogether. Something didn't mesh quite right. Something tickled his hunch and tweaked his migraine. Something wasn't right in the City of Miami. But either way, he had gotten his answer.

 

 

*  *  *  *

 

 

Commissioner Rodrigo Del Vallé lay face down on the undone bed, his eyes glazed over and opened, his mouth frozen in a gape that might have earlier been a stunned moan. Saliva dripped from the lopsided tongue that almost touched the soiled bedding. He was naked, three clean bullet holes in his upper back and the cheap bed roll beneath him soaked clear through with blood, congealing under his rib cage where his weight pushed down. His belly propped him up, sunless pink and hairy.

Typical of Miami, the CSI team dusted the room and every inch of the flooring and walls with utmost care while the homicide detectives made crude comments and sipped espressos. From where they stood, one could just make out the shrunken almond sized testicles between the partially opened legs of the cooling stiff. The sight produced quite a few giggles and gawks. Rowdy jokes and jabs. Eduardo Vera, tall and pristine. Dapper dresser and aficionado of cufflinks and alligator shoes rested his head against the soiled wall of the little motel. He watched his men laugh and playfully badger one another. He didn't join in. He'd rather have been at home with his wife and sons. The call to duty was often the call to witness death and gore. It was a call he wasn't eager to take anymore. Shirt and suit perfectly matched, but his body stood out. Wrong. Tired and worn hands. Browned unevenly from a merciless sun. His eye's no longer saw the world with wonder. Unlike his men, he couldn't easily explain away a life. Age had changed him inside the confines of his mind.

When the room was finally turned over to them, the men crowded inside and began scribbling details on their small pads. Used to gruesome crime scenes, the men of homicide weren't fazed by this killing, perhaps only somewhat amused that for a man who went out of his way to present the community pillar persona, he was found dead in a cheap hookers love pad. The press arrived at the address before the coroner, but only one got through the police cordon.

Dr. Betancourt was a busy man, his job no longer thrilled him and with just two years shy of retirement, he no longer truly cared. The portly man stepped through the door ducking camera glare and rolled his cigar in his mouth. The detectives didn't stir. If it had been their first time seeing the man, they might have greeted him warmly and asked after his family.

Dr. Betancourt's son was a local baseball celebrity, albeit on his way up. But it wasn't even the fourth time that evening that they crossed paths in official capacity. Not even the sixth so all he got were curtly murmurs which he waved away. The television was tuned to an all-porn channel. A staple in such fine establishments. On screen, a rapier thin bleached blond Asian rolled through one of the world’s ugliest gang-bangs without so much as a complaint. Her moaning was off key as was the dubbed audio. The sound was ear splitting. The men didn't seem to mind.

"What's say we change the channel boys?" asked Betancourt taking it in.

"That would be impeding an investigation." quipped a detective. Vera, who was standing by the set, hit the power button in mid moan. A detective squatting by the a/c looked back over his shoulder.

"Great boss, you've just contaminated the evidence. They were witnesses." The small room broke in laughter. The coroner slipped further into the room. Betancourt calmly looked over the body of the commissioner, pale and clammy and turning blue with every passing minute.

"He's dead gentlemen." He announced officially, sizing the body up and rolling his cigar pensively.

"Good, I thought it was just us." added another sarcastically. Betancourt rolled his eyes. He pulled gloves from his jacket pocket and snapped them on. He rested his weight on the cheap headboard and hovered over the body. The sheets were bunched up and soiled through thoroughly. He poked the body a few times and chewed his cigar.

"Body is in lividity." Betancourt picked up Del Vallé's wrist and flexed it back and forth so it looked as if the dead man were waving hello. Ashes fluttered and sprinkled the corpse. Now it was the technician's turn to roll his eyes.

"No more than an hour, maybe two." He lightly let the hand go and examined the wounds in the back. A neat cluster about five millimeters apart. There was minimal blood. He tested the bruised skin with a finger. Congealed blood bubbled out the entry wounds and smeared his glove. Judging by the accuracy, whoever plugged him was a damn good shot.

"We'll have it official in a few minutes." said a thin man in a blue jumpsuit. A county morgue technician and the senior man in the room. His young assistant was busy uncoiling a sterile thermometer slip from a sealed plastic bag. Betancourt kept right on talking.

"Best guess a .22mm, could also be a .9mm. There's no gunpowder residue in the flesh. So I'm guessing the shooter was by the door, some nine feet away."

"Apparently the crusty old broad at the counter didn't hear a thing or at least that's how she's playing it." said a detective kneeling by the foot of the bed. The woman had prostitution and drug priors. She had the look of a meth addict on her way out. Most people that jaded clamed up when dealing with the fuzz.

Vera snorted. "Have you ever driven by here at lunch time? Most of the cars in the Gables crowd the lot. Can't find a decent Honda in the lot for all the Benz's and Beemer’s. Extramarital affairs are a big business here. After an eight hour shift she'd have told you she heard Porky Pig fucking Walt Disney." The detectives giggled like school kids. The portly one by the foot of the bed almost lost his footing.

Betancourt shrugged. "That's how it always is. When you work in these slums, you grow immune to the grunts and screams and inevitable shots." They heard rotors in the distance and knew what it was without looking. The Miami PD air patrol was out searching for a suspect. To the classy folks in the know, such an aircraft was called a 'ghetto bird'. It would grid search the area then drift away. It too, was a common occurrence.

The technician struggled with Del Vallé's thighs, he held the leg pinned back while the younger man slipped the rectal probe thermometer in place and made verbal notes into a recorder.

"Subjects anus is dilated and showing signs of acute inflammation. the skin shows healed scaring, most probably thrombosed hemorrhoids. Red and purple bruising around orifice show signs of prolonged..." He drifted off not sure of how to phrase it. Betancourt helped him out.

"Signs of prolonged what? Signs of irritation? Of intercourse?" The younger man grimaced and nodded. Betancourt tapped the tech by his side.

"Just say it, we're all professional men here."

"That's right Rudy. Just say it, the man took it up the ass. What's the big deal?" said a detective walking past. Laughter again in that room, enough to scare off death. Enough to make Vera and Betancourt cringe.

"What the temperature at, Rudy?" asked Betancourt. The tech consulted the LCD thermometer gizmo in his palm.

"78.4 degree's and dropping fast."

"An hour or two. Right on the money." Betancourt shrugged. Death was his business and he knew it well.

"No detritus under nails, no skin fragments or clothing fibers. No visible signs of any struggle. He wasn't in a rush when he got popped." said a detective holding a clipboard against his belly.

"Doesn't matter, we gotta' do it by the book." the tech named Rudy replied.

"And that's what we're doing here."

"What about his feet?" asked the portly officer.

"What about them?"

"Might be some evidence there."

The senior man cleared his throat. He looked un-amused. If this was a joke he didn't get it.

"We don't bag the feet as a usual procedure. But if you want, we can do it." came the terse reply.

"Do


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