Matters of the Heart: Book 1, Chapter 6

Part I, Chapter 6: The Butcher, The Baker
by Elizabeth Johnston

When Rico showed up at the OCB the next morning, Castillo wasn’t there. So he spent the day ‘babysitting’ Frank and Tito with Stan and Trudy. Sonny, taking Marty’s advice, maintained a low profile at the marina, making good use of his time fixing and polishing things on his sailboat. Working on his boat always helped ease the tensions, and the greater the worries, the harder he worked. By the time Jess returned from work, the Vitus II was gleaming in the best Bristol fashion.

It was quite a bit later that night before Marty called Crockett on his cell. He had just returned from Washington with some interesting information and needed to see him and Rico first thing in the morning. Words like that from Castillo usually meant something serious was up.

The next morning, as Rico and Sonny settled themselves in Castillo’s office, the lieutenant placed a closed envelope on his desk. Stamped across it in large bold red letters were the words ‘TOP SECRET’.

“Does the name ‘Andrew Baker’ ring any bells?” Castillo asked in his usual calm monotone, but he couldn’t hide the intensity and look of hostility on his face.

Crockett and Tubbs would have dropped in their tracks had they been standing. “What the hell does that slimeball have to do with this?” Sonny asked rising from his chair and pacing across to the far side of the room. “Don’t tell me he’s running this show for the Company?”

Rico was just as stunned. “With all the bad publicity after the Borbon incident, I thought they would have right-sized him with the rest of the anti-red fanatics.”

Sonny could hardly suppress the anger he felt, even after all this time. Baker had duped him and Rico into sneaking a mealy-mouthed, corrupt, slimy dictator named Manuel Borbon out of the middle of a bloody rebellion against his corrupt regime in Costa Morada, a small banana republic that also happened to be a major shipping route for getting Colombian flake into the US. According to Baker, who claimed to be a special drug enforcement agent, if they got Borbon out alive, he would reveal the identities of the key figures in Colombian drug trade.

But it was all a lie. There was never any intention for Borbon to snitch on anyone. Baker was really with the Company. His plan all along was to whisk Borbon away to safety until the rebellion had calmed down, and then help him get back into power again in Costa Morada. It was all just to keep the map from turning any more ‘red’ too close to home, and, perhaps even more importantly, to keep Borbon from revealing a more important name – the name of the high ranking US government official who was protecting him and his illegal activities. To hell with what happened to the good ol’ US of A and its citizens as long as the commies didn’t get control of another third world petty dictatorship.

Tubbs and Crockett lost count of how many times they almost bought it during that operation. In the end they shot Borbon’s plane out of the air and an angry, belligerent Baker threatened to have their badges for it. He never got the chance to try though. Both Sonny and Rico tossed their shields onto the tarmac of the amphib strip then and there and quit. Marty had tried to convince them to stay, but there was no turning back. As Sonny said at the time, it had been a long time coming – the Borbon affair was only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Baker epitomized everything that was bad with the system. The Borbon incident had destroyed the last shred of belief Sonny had that the system worked and that he could actually do something to make the world a better place. He would never forgive Baker for that or fully trust the feds again. Over the years, both Sonny and Rico had figured that Baker and his illegal politricks had been long buried. But from what Castillo just said, that was apparently not the case.

Castillo explained that the information he had obtained from his contacts at the Company was all highly confidential. He had had to call in a lot of favours to get the info, but it had been worth the markers and the trip to Washington to find out what was going on.

After the Borbon disaster, Baker had been called in to explain what went wrong. That was about the time when all hell was breaking loose in Washington about illegal covert activities by certain federal agencies. Baker wasn’t the worst of the manipulators, but he wasn’t high enough in the hierarchy to deflect the backlash from himself. Instead of the big promotion he was expecting for getting Borbon out safely, he took a hit on the chin for getting caught interfering in third world politics. And he blamed Crockett and Tubbs for his fall from grace.

The Company had kept him on as an agent, but all chances of promotion were out the window, so he started working on his own agenda under the table. The Company was so decimated by the housecleaning of its covert activities, they only started to realize what Baker was up to years later. By that time he had buried himself so deeply they didn’t know what he was doing and they couldn’t find him. And now they suspected that not only was he acting on his own, but that he might be on the take as well from contacts who had something to hide. They were trying to rein him in, but he always managed to stay just one step ahead of the posse.

And to make it worse, Castillo went on, the Company had hidden its problems with Baker from other agencies. As far as anyone other than the Company’s inner circle knew, Baker was still an active agent in good standing. The federal hierarchy places the Company at the top. So when Baker went to the DEA on the Sanchez/Dominguez deal, his directives were followed implicitly. Marty figured he was on the negative side of the marker count now for the first time in his career, but he had convinced the right people in the Company to let him tell the Miami DEA about the Baker affair. He’d be talking to Costas and his boss later that morning.

“Baker’s a rogue,” Castillo concluded, “acting on his own for his own warped principles and his own benefit. The Company wants him back, preferably alive, and they don’t care how. He’s no longer protected.”

What Marty said was somewhat of a relief to Crockett and Tubbs after Tuesday’s revelations. As far as they were concerned, the system was still far from perfect, but maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as it had been when they threw down their badges and left everything behind thirteen years before.

Castillo replayed his offer to Crockett and Tubbs to drop out of the Sanchez investigation if they wanted to. If Baker was on Sanchez’ payroll, the Colombian might know the truth about Burnett and they could walk into a trap. But both Sonny and Rico wanted in, especially now more than ever, if it gave them the chance to take down Baker.

“If Sanchez does know, he probably won’t play, but if he doesn’t, maybe we can kill two maggots with one squeeze,” Crockett said rubbing the palms of his hands together. He stared Castillo in the eyes, the first time that morning. “Baker’s mine, Marty. I don’t care what the Company does to him afterwards, but I get him first.”

Castillo had known what their answer would be – he just wanted to confirm it before the meeting with the rest of the members of his unit who would be working the case. The three of them headed into the briefing room where the officers were already starting to gather. The background info provided by the lieutenant was on a need to know basis, but the key point was that they still didn’t know what Sanchez looked like or who he would be playing at the reception that night. He passed around Baker’s photo for everyone to have good look at. If he showed up anywhere near the place, they were to take him down. And then Castillo sat back and let Crockett lead the strategy metting.

The plan they came up with for the evening was simple. Castillo and Gina would be at the reception as official guests, members of the Miami police force involved with drug enforcement. Switek and Trudy would be there as part of the catering crew, and Burnett and Cooper would be attending as American businessmen with dealings in Colombia. Everyone except Crockett and Tubbs would be wearing hidden mikes to keep in touch with each other and the surveillance unit manned by Henry, Driscoll and Cortillas which would be just a few blocks away and ready to provide additonal backup if things went sour. There would also be two unmarked cars on the street and a police cruiser patrolling offshore as part of normal surveillance on a party of this nature. They could also be called in if needed. Everyone was to keep a close eye on things. Any hint at all of trouble or that Sanchez knew who they were, and Crockett and Tubbs were to get out of there.

It would be a real bonus if they knew who Sanchez was or what he looked like before the evening’s reception. So, after the briefing was over, Sonny and Rico decided it was time to pay their old friend Izzy a visit to see what he had managed to dig up. If this Sanchez was really aiming to move in and take control over the biggest drug operation on the Florida coast, chances were that the Fuente organization wouldn’t take kindly to it, and it could end up in the biggest bloodbath Miami had seen in years.

And speaking of the Fuente organization, Crockett was particularly interested in finding out what Izzy had learned about Fuente’s plans to beat the charges at the upcoming preliminary trial. They had him nailed – so why was he so confident he could skip on the rap?

The meet with Izzy was as fruitless as the last one had been. He was working on it, he said, and expected to get something soon, but he had nothing yet.

“The street is quiet mang. No one can sing if they don’t know the tune.”

With nothing new to go on, Sonny and Rico parted company. They would meet later at the OCB to finalize the set-up for the evening.

Sonny decided to head back to the boat for a while . By the time he got to the marina, Jessica was at the Mountain Mist, home early to get ready for the evening. He tried once again to talk her out of going, but, as he had expected, he couldn’t get her to change her mind. He felt a bit better about one thing at least. Jess had told him that him that Gina and her husband would be picking her up and taking her home.

 


 

Security was tight when Crockett and Tubbs arrived at the Colombian Consulate that evening. The guard at the gate waved them through after carefully examining the official invitations Castillo had provided them, and the sleek Ferrari wound its way up the curved palm-lined drive to the mansion that served as both office and official residence.

The Colombian government had spared no expense in selecting its Miami headquarters. Situated on 2 acres of waterfront property in a prestigious area of Key Biscayne, the electrified fence was not out of keeping with the neighbouring exclusive properties. The expansive entrance-way into the building, which was overseen by two conspicuously heavily-armed guards, led through a short hallway into the reception area where ceiling to floor windows overlooked the park-like grounds and the vast expanse of Atlantic Ocean. Generously laden tables of food and hors d’oeuvres dotted the room and lined the walls and waiters were scurrying around with trays of drinks and assorted refreshments.

Sonny and Rico had raided the IGG lockup before they came and had selected clothes that would suit the image of wealthy high-flying businessmen with money to throw around. It had been a while since Crockett had dressed in such fashionable styles and rich fabrics, and he found himself feeling comfortable in the beautifully tailored outfit. Don’t get too comfortable Crockett, he had told himself – this is just a short-term contract.

The reception was in full swing by the time they arrived, fashionably late. Shortly after they walked into the reception hall, Switek approached them with a tray of champagne flutes and quietly informed them under his breath that Sanchez’ identity was still a mystery. Glancing around the room searching for the familiar faces he knew would be there, Sonny spied Castillo and Mei Ying talking with Gina and a man he assumed to be her husband and Jessica. This was the first time he had seen Jess in anything other than casual clothes and he was more than suitably impressed.

Throughout the evening, Crockett and Tubbs mingled with the crowd, hoping for something that would identify their target. They made the rounds of possible candidates, introducing themselves as Sonny Burnett and his business associate Ricardo Cooper. If Sanchez remembered his name and was interested, maybe he would come to them. Eventually they made their way over to a table where a small group businessmen were engaged in conversation. They hadn’t had any nibbles yet, but perhaps Sanchez was among this group.

“Nice party, isn’t it?” Crockett said inviting himself into their conversation. “Smart idea of the Colombian government, getting businessmen together like this.” He and Tubbs introduced themselves as Sonny Burnett and Richard Cooper and chatted for a while, but there was no indication that any of them was Sanchez.

Crockett turned around to sample some food from the nearby table, and noticed that Jessica was helping herself to some hors d’oeuvres as well. God she looked beautiful tonight, he thought. Any man here could make a pass at her and not be suspected of knowing her, and he had seen plenty of passes directed her way this evening. With her standing so close by, he couldn’t resist.

“Well hello there pretty lady,” he said smiling. “You’re looking very beautiful this evening. The name’s Sonny Burnett. Can I get you something?”

“Why thank you, Mr. Burnett, but I already have what I need right now,” she replied, smiling a devilish smile. It was perhaps a little more inviting than the smiles she had given to the other men who had introduced themselves to her that evening, but not so much more so that anyone other than Sonny would notice. “Perhaps later,” she replied, but inside she was thinking ‘definitely later’. This was the first time she had seen him dressed to the nines, and she was thinking that he was looking pretty good.

She was just about to leave when a late middle-aged, obviously well-to-do Hispanic gentleman came over and invited himself into their conversation. “Senorita, you are most assuredly the fairest lady at the ball this evening. May I introduce myself,” he said taking her hand and kissing it gently. “Jorge Esteban at your service. And now, would it be possible for you to enlighten me with your name, so I may know whom my heart has fallen in love with?”

“Senor Esteban, you are most flattering.” She was chuckling to herself thinking that his pass was far more sophisticated than Sonny’s but then she had gotten used to the Latin way when she lived in Colombia. “Jessica Taylor,” she said, for the first time looking at his face.

Sonny saw the smile on her face disappear momentarily as she looked at the man, and then return, but there was something different about her. Jessica seemed to suddenly become uneasy about something. He couldn’t say what it was – he just felt it.

“Excuse me, Mr. Esteban, Mr. Burnett. I really have to leave right now. I need some fresh air,” she said.

“Surely you will not disappear like Cinderella and break my heart,” Esteban pleaded.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to break your heart, but I really do need some air. Please excuse me,” she said, and then turned around and headed out to the gardens.

Sonny wanted to follow her, to find out what was wrong, but he didn’t want to put her into any danger. If Sanchez was around, he didn’t want him to think there was any connection between them. It eased his mind somewhat though when he saw Gina head out to the gardens after her.

Gina had been keeping an eye on things too, and had noticed Jess talking with Sonny and another gentleman and then leave in a hurry. Something didn’t seem quite right about it. She followed Jessica outside to see if anything was wrong, and found her standing by a tall oak tree, shaking, and on the verge of tears.

“Are you okay?” Gina asked. “What happened in there?”

“That man, the one Sonny’s talking to. I knew him in Colombia. I could never forget that face. That man is the devil himself.”

“Who is he?” Gina asked, concern creeping into her voice.

“He can call himself anything he wants to here, but his real name is Julio Sanchez.” Her voice steadied and she turned around to face her friend. “I’m going home Gina. Suddenly this party isn’t so much fun after all.”

Sanchez – how did Jess know him? She was obviously shaken by his being here, but any explanation would have to wait for tomorrow. Right now Gina had to get the information to Castillo so he could pass it along to Sonny and Rico. Then she would make sure Jessica got home.

Gina told Castillo what she had just learned. The lieutenant was here as the head of the OCB vice squad and he wasn’t taking any chances that Sanchez might link him to Burnett and Cooper. He passed the information on to Switek and had him pass it along to Crockett and Tubbs. At last they knew who Sanchez was, and now they could start to play their hand.

“Jorge,” remarked Sonny, “I understand you’re in the export business and based in Colombia. Myself, I’m into transportation. You know, I seem to recall doing business with you in the past, Jorge, but if I remember correctly, there were some delivery interruptions on your side. I’m thinking that you might want to do something to patch up our working relationship.”

“Your name is not unfamiliar to me Mr. Burnett. If I remember correctly, you did transport some goods for one of my enterprises run by Julio Sanchez once, and there were some problems along the way. I assure you, those problems did not originate with me. But Sanchez is a, shall we say – silent partner. I am curious as to how you know we are connected.”

“It’s my business to know things like that, Jorge.”

“Agreed. It is unfortunate that we had difficulties in the past Mr. Burnett. Perhaps you can look after some shipping arrangements for me in the future.”

“Perhaps we can do business sooner than you think,” Sonny replied. My friend here, Mr. Cooper, is also my partner on certain occasions. He’s in the import business in New York and is having some difficulty getting sufficient supply to keep his customers happy.”

“My usual supplier is out of circulation for a while,” Rico added. “Burnett has assured me that he can provide the transportation. I just need something to transport, and I understand you might have the product I need.”

“Perhaps, Mr. Cooper.” He turned his gaze to Sonny again. “Burnett, we may be able to firm up some sort of deal. How can I reach you?” Sonny pulled out a business card and handed it to him. It was very plain – just a name and the cell phone number for a company called ‘Caribbean Transportation’.

“We’ll be waiting Jorge.” Sonny said as he handed over the card.

“I’m looking forward to doing business with you Mr. Esteban,” Rico said shaking the man’s hand.

After Esteban left, Sonny and Rico nodded to Castillo indicating that a deal was set. They mingled for a while longer, and then left the party. Crockett dropped Tubbs at his hotel and headed back to the marina. Now they just had to wait for Sanchez to call.

The adrenaline rush of knowing they made contact was just starting to cool down as Sonny ambled up the wharf to the Vitus II. It was just after midnight, a full moon lighting the sky, its light reflecting on the calm surface of the water – all in all, a beautiful evening to be up and about. Crockett was wondering whether Jessica was waiting for him or if she had decided to spend the night on the Mountain Mist. She had seemed upset about something when she left, and he was still a bit concerned. As he neared the adjoining berths, he noticed that the lights were out on both the Mountain Mist and the Vitus II. Well if Jess was in bed asleep he could talk to her about it in the morning if she wanted to.

A sudden scream from the Mountain Mist broke the silent stillness of the night. “Oh God! Please stop. Please stop,” rang out into the air. Sonny dashed the rest of the way down the dock, pulling the colt defender from its hidden leg holster before he jumped onboard and forced his way down into the cabin. Jessica was sitting up on the couch leaning against the wall of the cabin, sweat rolling down her face, a look of terror on her face. Jack’s head rested worriedly on her lap.

Sonny rushed over – she was cold and shivering. She wrapped her arms around him, her head falling onto his shoulder and burst into tears . “I’m okay,” she said between the sobs. “It was just a nightmare.”

Some nightmare, he thought. She was bordering on shock. After she let go, he got a blanket and wrapped it around her.

“I’m okay,:” she repeated, but he knew she wasn’t.

“Take your time darlin’,” he said holding her tightly. “I’m here. Everything’s just fine now.”

After a while she got hold of herself and the shaking stopped. Sonny dried away the tears and wiped her face with a cold cloth. Then he heated some milk in the microwave while she changed into some warmer clothes.

“I need some air,” she said sounding a bit less distraught when she returned. They went out on deck and she sat at the stern gazing out over the moonlight dancing on the water. Sitting down beside her, he handed her the glass of milk and then took her hand gently in his.

“You want to tell me about it?” he asked in a gentle voice.

“That man,” she said staring intensely out over the water, “the one you were talking to tonight. His name is Julio Sanchez. He’s the man who killed Eduardo. I thought I’d managed to bury all that away. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“No need to apologize darlin’. It was too quiet tonight anyway.” He sensed she needed to get things out. Putting his arm around her, he spoke softly, “I can be a good listener if you want to talk about it.”

She gripped the glass of milk tightly in her hands and told him the horror story that she had tried to shut out of her life.

She had been working at the camp in Colombia and had to go into Cartegena for supplies. Eduardo was in the city, trying to raise some funds for the farmers. When the company helicopter headed back to the camp, Eduardo hitched a ride. Somehow the guerillas knew he was on board and they shot the helicopter down over the jungle. The pilot managed to autorotate it down, but the guerrillas were waiting for them, and dragged them all out of the helicopter at gunpoint. Sanchez was their leader. He had two of his men hold Eduardo while he beat him savagely and then had the men tie him to a tree.

The rest of the tale was even harder to tell. She had tried to wipe the memory clean, but seeing Sanchez tonight, it all came back with a vengence. Hard as it was, she continued. Maybe getting it out in the open would help.

“He raped me Sonny, right there in front of my husband and Eduardo couldn’t do anything except watch. And then, he just laughed about it. They all laughed.” She paused again before going on. “But Sanchez didn’t end it there. That bastard! He shot Eduardo in both legs and he just left him there tied to that tree to die a slow death alone in the jungle.

She covered her face with her hands, and tried unsuccessfully to hold back the tears.

“God Sonny, he was in agony. I don’t know how long it took for him to die. How could anyone do that to a person. Why couldn’t that bastard just have killed him instead of leaving him there to die like that?”

She took a deep breath and paused briefly before continuing her story. She and the pilot were taken prisoner and held for ransom. Nothing new in that – kidnapping, especially foreign nationals whose companies would pay big bucks to get them back, was a way of life in the Colombian jungle. After the company paid the ransom she left Colombia and went back home for a while.

Her eyes filled with tears again as she neared the end of her tale. The last part was the most difficult of all to talk about. She had never told anyone this, and now, for the first time, she felt comfortable enough to share it with someone else. “I was three 3 months pregnant at the time and I lost the baby. And now I’ve got nothing to remember Eduardo by except the memories and a few pictures.”

She paused briefly again and turned to look at Sonny with a look of fixed determination in her eyes. “I’ll never forget that man or his face!” There was anger in her tone. “That man Esteban – he’s Sanchez. He’s a bloody butcher, Sonny. He’s the devil himself, and I hope that bastard rots in hell!”

Her story rocked him. He continued to hold her and felt tears welling in his own eyes. He knew what it was like to lose someone you loved so much in a brutal way. It had been over 14 years since Caitlin had been killed by another butcher named Hackman, and still he felt the pain. She had been carrying an unborn child as well – his child. He had pushed those memories down deep too, but holding Jessica and hearing her story brought the memories and the pain to surface again, and he wept with her and for her at the same time. Someone had once told him that time would heal what memories could not, but he knew that wasn’t really true. Time only made the pain easier to deal with.