Bad news travels fast – it always does.
Julio Escobar was the head of the Colombian Cartel providing the drugs to United States connections. Delivery and payments were always made on a regular schedule, no exceptions. Jose Chavito was the middleman who was responsible for collecting the cash from the Mafia families when it was delivered to Puerto Rico, and then promptly distributing payments to the Escobar organization.
Camilo Rivera worked for Julio Escobar, he was a faithful employee and took his orders very seriously. He was also a man of very few words and followed instructions to the letter – always.
Camilo had cold dark black hair and accented his hair and dark skin with black slacks, black shirt, black jacket and black shoes. He dressed the same way, every day. When dealing with Camilo, little was left to doubt; he was frank, methodical, matter-of-fact and very deadly – when required.
Once, every two weeks, Camilo Rivera made the round trip from Bogota to San Juan – every trip was always the same. He would arrive in San Juan during the afternoon, room at the downtown Marriott, top floor – ocean side, and spend his arrival evening playing blackjack in the casino. A pre-arranged whore would join him at midnight; they would have dinner in the downstairs restaurant and spend the rest of the night in his top floor room. Usually they slept with the patio doors open, enjoying the sound of the waves and allowing the ocean breeze to cool the room. The whore was always gone at daylight, and Camilo set about his tasks at 9:00 AM – no later. His flight back to Colombia departed at 1:00 PM. His routine was always the same – no exceptions.
Turo Street, San Juan
Camilo Rivera’s trips to San Juan were simply to collect the cash, minus a small handling fee for Chavito, and return to Colombia with the money. It was always the same.
Jose Chavito’s office was located on Turo Street in downtown San Juan, and only a short taxi ride from the Marriott Hotel.
According to the prearranged schedule, Camilo would arrive at Jose Chavito’s office at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, as he did every other Tuesday. This week was no different, and he arrived on schedule as he had always done. On this visit he found Jose in his office, but on the phone. Camilo quietly lit a Colombian cigarette, took a seat across the room in an uncomfortable straight back chair, and waited for the phone call to end.
Jose was engaged in a very heated conversation, and he casually waved at Camilo acknowledging his presence. Jose was yelling into the phone, and whoever he was talking to was evidently doing more listening than talking. Finally, he stood up, slammed the receiver in its cradle and looked up at Camilo. “We have a problem with the money – but it is being taken care of,” he said nervously as he sat back down.
“No sen¢or Chavito, there is no ‘we’ with a problem – only a ‘YOU’,” Camilo said frankly.
“Look Camilo, something has gone wrong and the shipment never made it. We don’t have the money, but I’m looking into it. Okay?” Jose growled while lighting a small cigar.
“Sen¢or, I will leave now and call my superiors regarding the absence of the money. I will be back in one hour. Hopefully you will have more answers then,” Camilo spoke without emotion and quickly left Jose’s office, walking back out onto Turo Street.
Jose Chavito was in the middle of this mess and he needed some relief and some answers quickly. He had already spoken to Steve Carrollton in Memphis, and Steve’s answer to Jose was quite clear and to the point. Their man had placed the money in the crewmember’s luggage – as had always been done in the past!
Jose tried to explain to Carrollton, that since his man didn’t find the money at the airport, as had been arranged, one of two things must have occurred. Either someone had stolen the money, or the bag had been misplaced. However, Steve Carrollton wasn’t listening! He knew Jose Chavito had been skimming, but that wasn’t any of his business. As long as the Memphis Mafia had sent the payment in full, then it was between Chavito and the Colombian Cartel to work out the details – he didn’t care.
To calm him down, Steve Carrollton finally told Chavito that he would check into it on his end, and let him know if he found anything suspicious. But as far as his organization was concerned, the payment had been delivered.
However, the last thing Steve Carrollton wanted was for the Colombian Cartel to get involved in his operations. So, he would send MoMo and Sweeny to check it out with ‘Noodles’, but would never let Chavito know that.
As promised, Camilo Rivera returned to Jose’s office within one hour. He walked into the small door and stood in front of Jose Chavito’s desk – just staring, not saying anything.
Jose leaned back in his chair, took a big draw from his cigar and looked up at Camilo. Camilo’s face was rigid and cold with an emotionless stare. Jose knew that Camilo was not someone who would listen to or understand reasoning. He also knew that killing Camilo would only make things worse; Jose had to find a solution and that solution was to find the money.
“Look Camilo,” Jose said shaking his head. “I don’t have an answer yet. We’re still checking into it. Sit down and get comfortable. Would you like a drink?”
“Sen¢or Chavito, Mr. Escobar took this bad news very hard,” he said seriously and ignoring Jose’s invitation. “You have 8 hours to retrieve the money. It is 2 o’clock now – I will be back at 10 o’clock this evening to get the money.”
Jose stood up. “Look, you stupid bastard,” Jose was yelling at Camilo as he watched him turn and walk back out the door. “It’s going to take longer than 8 hours to find that damn money! Are you guys crazy?” Camilo wasn’t listening. Camilo was gone and Jose Chavito was in big trouble.
Jose sent his men to get Ivan Negron and bring him to his office. If Ivan he had stolen the money, then Jose would find it. While Jose questioned Ivan, his men searched Ivan’s apartment, his car, his girlfriend’s house, his whore’s apartment and finally his parent’s residence. If Ivan had taken the money, Jose and his men could not find it – this was not something the Colombian drug dealers would want to hear.
Sitting in a chair in Jose’s office, Ivan Negron nervously told his story the same way three times – then Jose slit his throat!
As promised, Camilo returned at ten o’clock. He opened the office door, but didn’t enter. Instead, he stood in the doorway looking at Jose Chavito and the carnage in his office. Jose was sitting behind his desk, smoking a small cigar and staring at Ivan Negron’s body, which was still setting in the chair where Jose had slit his throat. Blood covered most of the floor and had already started to dry.
“You see, asshole,” Jose yelled at Camilo while pointing at Ivan’s body. “I’ve got the guy responsible!”
“Sen¢or Chavito,” Camilo spoke. “That is good. Now I get the money and return home.”
“I don’t have it yet,” Jose said quietly.
“You kill the thief and you still do not have my money?” Camillo said looking at Ivan’s body and then back at Chavito.
“Not yet. We are still looking for it, but we’ll find it. Tell your boss to calm down. We are all professionals here, and we will take care of business. Okay?” Jose was trying to buy time.
Camilo didn’t respond. For the third time today, he turned and left Jose Chavito’s office – it would be the last time he would visit. Camilo Rivera’s instructions from Julio Escobar were clear and precise. And, as always, he followed them without question or hesitation.
It was almost noon the next day, and Camilo Rivera was flying first class from San Juan to Memphis, Tennessee. From there, he would rent a car and travel to a small town in West Tennessee – Humboldt. The Mafia family heads were having a meeting somewhere nearby and his instructions were to contact a Mr. Antonio Scarsetti to retrieve the money they were owed. His message to Scarsetti would be simple. If their business was to continue, then payments must be made. If they had problems, then they were ‘their problems’ and did not concern Julio Escobar or the Colombian Cartel.
Earlier that morning a street beggar stumbled over Jose Chavito’s body in an alley off Turo Street, someone had crammed a plastic garbage bag down his throat! The message delivered was simple and without misunderstanding – Mr. Jose Chavito had nothing to say that the Colombian Cartel wanted to hear. Mr. Jose Chavito died a very slow and a very painful death.