The Desert - pt1 - "An Ancient Fear"
Posted on Thu Feb 22nd, 2018 @ 1:02am by Unawakened Alfonzo Siciliano
Location: Chihuahuan Desert; Mexico
“You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear.
The spectacle of fearsome acts. Somebody steals from me, I
cut off his hands. He offends me, I cut out his tongue. He rises
against me, I cut off his head, stick it on a pike, raise it high up
so all on the streets can see. That's what preserves the order
of things. Fear.”
- Bill the Butcher; Gangs of New York (2002)
5 figures stood in the desert.
And the sun baked them.
“Where the fuck are these people?” complained a heavy set man under a bushy grey-streaked mustache. He was of an olive complexion made tanned under the midday Chihuahuan sun, and dressed smartly in a light grey suit. “Even looking’ at this place is giving me diarrhea.”
JUAN PAOLO ALFARO, but to me he was Uncle Paulie. You could be forgiven for thinking Uncle Paulie was a piasan, a WOP from the neighborhood slinging spaghetti with the rest of us, but nah. Uncle Paulie was el cubano, an old school immigrant who got his start shining shoes and learning the racket in Havana gangster casinos. When Castro came to power he fled to the US where, after a momentary stop off in South Vietnam care of Lyndon Johnson, he became one of the most vicious street bosses in the tri-state area.
“1968 I was in DaNang drinking vodka off some whore’s cunt, right, I got the hearsey squirts for two weeks.” Paulie gestured around at the assembled, a gaudy bracelet he wore jingling against the gold watch as they fought for position on his wrist. “But that has nothing on what you get around here. This Mexican ass-vomit is a whole different ball-game, my friend.”
Paulie brought a couple guys back with him from ‘nam. These two nutty twin brothers from South Jersey somewhere, The Satriales, and a half-fucked Irishman from Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, Mickie Waterstone. They were just small time hoods back in the day -- home invasions, blow up a car, or sling a little dope. Maybe once and a while they’d knock off a Bodega for a couple hundred bucks but, for the most part, they were bush league until running into my old man. I guess Pop saw something in Paulie because he brought him into the business, made him family. When they found old man Catalano stuffed in a Shoprite dumpster with his goomad, my father was made Boss and Paulie became hand of the King.
“Aye.” spoke a second man, thin and lanky with bushy pair of fire-red mutton chops that did their best to hide a large wrinkly scar stretching from throat to cheek. “Dat why I on’y drink this, boy-o.” He brought up a small silver flask bound in leather and embroidered with the words Tiocfaidh ár lá, gaelic for ‘our day will come’.
The irishman offers the flask first to Paulie who shakes his head in the negative. It is then passed to his right toward a muscle bound young man looking to be in his late teens, roughly the same age as Al Siciliano. The young meathead gladly accepts and takes a swig.
The meathead instantly makes a sour face, pulling the flask away from his lips and slapping it into the chest of the irishman. “Bro…” he said wiping his lips with the back of his hand, “.. what is that? Bushmills?”
“Bushmills be protestant piss!” the irishman said appearing insulted by the comment. “Dis is a fine catholic drink and I’ll spill your belly here in the sand, dago.” The irishman followed the threat by raising a rather sharp pair of hooks which sprouted from his wrist in place of a hand. A squeaky hinging motion pinched both hooks together as he peered through them at the meathead.
“San Diego?” the meathead said. “Dude. We’re in Mexico.”
Paulie sighed pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers. He offered a sideways glance toward Al Siciliano and rocked his head in motion of the two. “My wife’s sister’s idiot kid.” he remarked as if having to explain himself.
The Irishman was BROGAN Ó COILEÁIN, a gun runner and terrorist for the politically violent Irish dissent group The Real Irish Republican Army. He’s been an associate to the families going all the way back to ‘The Troubles’ and is one of the few radicals who choose not to honor the ceasefire between rebels and loyalists. He’s quirky but he is dangerous and he has been supplying the families with former-soviet hardware for the last 20+ years.
The other guy, the walking building, I don't know him so good. He’s Paulie’s nephew, ANTHONY CORRADO, and I think he might have been Junior Mr. Passaic County a couple years ago. I guess Uncle Paulie is throwing him some work.
“Will somebody tell Jack Sparrow over here to go screw before I gotta knock him the fuck out?” Anthony said toward the others but remained looking at Brogan. “Where did you get this shit anyway..” motioning to the hook, “.. Disney World?”
“Belfast, ya fukkin cunt!” Brogan snapped back.
“ALRIGHT!” Paulie finally said raising his voice a couple octaves before coming back down again. “Please. Can we knock it off? It’s hot. We’ve been waiting on these Mexicans for over an hour. Let’s not jump on each other’s throats till we are back in the United States.”
The two seemed to make peace for a time and Paulie again sighed. He made his way over to Al who was leaning against the van they had all arrived in. “Sometimes I miss the old crew.” Paulie lamented as he reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and produced a cigar.
Al went into the pocket of his jeans and came back with a lighter.
Everything changed for Uncle Paulie once he started to run with my old man. This was all before I was born, ya’understand, but there was always stories. Paulie and his crew were coming into more money than they ever saw before -- but with that money came more responsibility. Responsibility that was maybe too much for the other characters.
Last I heard the Twins split up. One of them ran down to Florida with some Filipino who was ready to suck all the money from his wallet via his dick. The other ballooned up to about 450 lbs and got the diabetes. They took both his feet a couple years ago and it’s hard to intimidate folks on your collections if you’re clicking down the street on a pair of pegs.
Mickie Waterstone ended up going to this bar on Jerome Avenue and, like, the bartender sucked his dick the wrong way or something. Mickie came back the next day all pissed off with a Kalashnikov and killed everybody. He’s upstate at Sing Sing with my Pops now, I hear they wanna make a movie about him with that Harry Potter kid.
“Cartel is coming,” Anthony said looking through a pair of binoculars across the desert toward a coming plume of upturned sand. He and Brogan convened at the van now with Al and Paulie. “Better late than never.” he shrugged.
“Oh, I don't know about that one boy-o.” Brogan said taking a turn with the binoculars, “Business is never easy with the Cartels, especially this one. Is the boy stayin’, Paul, or are we gonna leave one of us alive to be tellin the tale?”
Paulie ‘hrmmphed’ at the ominous joke from the Irishmen. “Up to you, kid.” Paulie said taking a puff on the cigar Al had lit for him, placing one hand on his hip and rolling the cigar over his lips. “We got it from here if you wanna head out.”
Santa Muerte, the Holy Death. Part international crime syndicate, part fucked up religious cult. Let’s say the Mayor of SanSomething-Or-Other says something negative about a cartel boss, right? Maybe that mayor ended up getting his head lopped off or he’s ringed with tires and set on fire. These bosses are bad dudes but this Santa Muerte is the crew that the bad dudes are afraid of.
I was just the connection guy, I set up the meet between Uncle Paulie and the Cartel through my Mexican connections. The Cartel needed a couple trucks of Illegals and Chinese Fentanyl driven state-side, Paulie needed some extra muscle to push out a crew of Albanians who have been flexing since my old man went away. Easy Peasy normally -- but nothing felt easy with Santa Muerte.
“I am good.” Al said with a smirk stuffing his hands down into the pockets of his jeans and leaning back against the van. “I waited this long to see what happens, right?”
“Well alright.” Paulie said turning his eyes forward toward a quartet of Cadillac SUVs as they rolled to a stop, fanned out, some 50-yards from them. “Anyone ever meet with this Santa Muerte?”
“Big. Fucking. Stairs.” Brogan commented as he rapidly stepped around the van to collect a pair of Armalite assault rifles, one shouldered and the other handed to Anthony. “The Kings sent’a fella Mugsy Cullin out here in the 90s. Mags Thatcher was having a state visit in Texas and the Kings wanted to see if we could make use of some fine Mexican Catholics to send the old bitch to protestant hell.”
Anthony Corrado, the meatheaded former Mr. Passaic JR, stood with the rifle mimicking stances which he likely saw gracing the covers of actions films. “So what’s that got to do with stairs?” he asked absently.
“Mugsy met up with Santa Muerte at this compound outside of Mexico City. The whole thing was set up like one of them Aztec temples with big fuckin’ steps, cock high..” Brogan explained gesturing a flat palm at waist level to demonstrate the step height. “He said there was about 40 of them, he was on his hands and knees by the time he got to the top. At the plateau he had to bow his head to fit through the tiny door. Grovel up the steps and bow into the chamber -- all to see the Queen of the Dead.” He pulled the bolt, cocking the rifle with a locking snap to punctuate his words.
“And that’s it?” Paulie asked, “That is all your guy said?”
“That’s all he said.” Brogan nodded, “Mugsy is quite a talker but there wasn’t much he wanted to say about this shitehole.” He shifted weight from one foot to the other, eyes on the static SUVs and sighed, “Never did nothing with Mags (thatcher) but a couple of the Santa Muerte came across the pond a few years later. Kidnapped a constable and his family in Derry. Wife, 3 kids, fuckin’ dog -- burned ‘em all to death.” He crossed himself at the words, “Took their heads for some reason.”
“Even the dog?” Anthony asked scratching his shaved scalp
Brogan prepared an agitated answer but wouldn’t get a chance.
“The doors are opening.” Al said. He had been watching the unflinching SUVs as the other’s talked -- their dark mirrored windows making it impossible to see who was inside or what they were doing. Now, it seemed, Santa Muerte was ready to talk.
5 figures stood in the desert.
The Queen of the Dead watched them.
And the sun baked them.