Authors: Jeff Buick
“Relax, Eugenio,” the seated man said in a soft voice. “Your wife and daughter are fine. For now.”
Eugene started to move forward but two guns appeared, Glock A-17's, one in the right hand of each man leaning against his counter. Eugene stopped. “Where is my wife?” His words were like acid.
“Sit down, Eugenio. Threatening me isn't going to help your situation.”
Eugene glanced at the guns, and sat at the table, opposite the man. “Who are you?” he asked.
The man smiled. “Now that's a question I
answer. My name is Javier Rastano. I'm from MedellÃn. It's a city in southern Colombia, in case you're not familiar with it.”
“I know where MedellÃn is,” Eugene said. “But I don't understand why you're here.”
“You are related to the Escobar clan, who, at one time, lived in MedellÃn. One of your cousins was Pablo Escobar.”
“Pablo is dead. He died a violent death years ago.”
“Did he?” Javier asked, amused. “We have reason to believe that your cousin isn't as dead as he would like the world to believe. In fact, we're sure he's aliveâ¦”
To Teresa Buick.
My love. My angel. Forever in my heart.
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Copyright Â© 2005 by Jeff Buick
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Trade ISBN: 978-1-4285-1855-1
E-book ISBN: 978-1-4285-1844-5
First Dorchester Publishing, Co., Inc. edition: February 2005
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It was a quiet street, with rows of two-story stucco houses lining the narrow strip of pitted asphalt. A thin sidewalk, chipped and gouged from the impact of thousands of tire rims and undercarriages, bordered one side. On the other was a narrow strip of grass with a handful of short, sickly palm trees. The buildings were in disrepair, and in many places chunks of mortar and stucco had fallen to the street below. A handful of decrepit cars were parked at uneven intervals. A group of young boys played marbles on cracked concrete.
A white panel van pulled onto the street and cruised slowly past the kids. A pregnant woman glanced at the darkened windows as the van rolled by. The passenger window was open a crack and she saw a pair of eyes scanning the buildings. Dark eyes. Dangerous eyes. She looked away in fear. Even quiet streets in the Colombian city of MedellÃn were not to be trusted. The van continued, pausing only once for a brief second as it passed one of the houses, then disappeared around the corner. Inside the vehicle, one man was talking in rapid Spanish.
“It was him,” he said, unable to control his excitement. “I know it was him.”
“Are you sure?” the driver asked. “You only saw him for a split second.”
The passenger grabbed a cell phone from the seat and nodded vigorously as he dialed. “It's Escobar. Even with the beard, I know that face.” The line connected and he spoke quickly into the phone. “We've spotted Pablo Escobar. We have a precise location on him.”
“Give us the location,” said the strong voice on the other end of the line. It belonged to Col. Hugo Martinez, the head of Search Bloc, the often covert arm of the Colombian government put in place to remove the drug lords from MedellÃn and Cali. “Our ETA is ten minutes. Don't lose him.” The line went dead.
“Pull up here,” the passenger said, pointing to an opening against the curb. He slipped a revolver from his waistband and snapped off the safety. “Let's go.”
The two men leapt from the car and jogged back to the corner, slowing as they approached the intersection. The passenger said, “He's on the second floor, fourth house on the opposite side of the street.” His name was Manuel Sanchez, and for the past sixteen months he had searched the dirty and dangerous streets of MedellÃn for the richest and most ruthless drug lord in the world. Now they had him. Pablo Escobar was less than fifty yards from where they stood. Sanchez ran his finger down the gun barrel and gave his partner a knowing look. “This is it, Enrico. This is the moment we've been waiting for. We cannot let him escape.” He paused for a second, planning the attack. “I'll take the back of the house. You wait here and cover the front. No one leaves that house alive.”
“They're dead men, Manuel.” The words were tough, but the voice was scared.
Sanchez patted his partner on the shoulder and was gone. He walked across the intersection, holding the gun at his side in his left hand. He kept his gait as normal as possible, out of view of the second floor window where Escobar had been only minutes before. Was it Escobar? Was it really the elusive drug dealer? Yes, he was sure. It was him. Manuel's pulse was lightning quick, his breathing shallow. He felt exposed, and thought that if Pablo glanced out that window, the
would instinctively know he was a cop. And then he would be dead. But running was out of the question; it would give away the advantage of surprise. He had to walk at a normal pace across the intersection. And risk his life yet again.
Manuel reached the building on the far side and ducked in behind the wall. The stucco felt rough on his back, even through his shirt. He looked down and took another deep breath. He had forgotten to strap on his Kevlar vest. Christ, of all the times to screw up. If he lived through this it would be a miracle. A couple of cleansing breaths to slow his pulse and he moved to the narrow walkway behind the row of buildings. A dirty street urchin in a ripped T-shirt watched him with disinterested eyes as he took a quick glance around the corner. He could see the back of the house, but the midday sun glinting off the second-floor windows made it impossible to know whether anyone was looking his way from behind the glass. He checked his revolver again, saw the bullets in the cylinder and felt a surge of confidence. One more deep breath and he moved into harm's way, crouching low and driving hard with his legs. It didn't matter if Escobar saw him walking or running now; he knew the drug lord would be firing at him.
Manuel reached the stone wall between the target house and the walkway and hugged it for safety. He was breathing hard now, his adrenaline pumping through his veins like never before in his life. So close. So long to find him, now so close. How many men had died chasing false leads? How many millions of dollars had been spent in the pursuit of this one man? He had lost track, but the figures were staggering. He slipped his cell phone from his pocket and hit redial. Martinez answered.
“How long until you get here?” Manuel whispered.
“Two, maybe three minutes.”
“No sirens, come in quiet,” Manuel said. “There's no sign he knows we're onto him.”
“Roger that. Good work, Manuel. Hang on, we're almost there.”
Manuel closed the phone and powered it off. An incoming call could alert Escobar. He stayed low against the wall, the afternoon sun baking the narrow alley and turning it into a furnace. Sweat trickled down his forehead and he wiped it away with his free hand. He was shaking almost uncontrollably. He breathed deeply, trying to calm himself and bring his heartbeat down so he could shoot accurately. He checked his watch. Martinez was a minute, maybe two, out. He decided to risk a quick look over the wall.
He raised his head above the rounded stucco edge. Nothing but silence greeted him. The building was a two-story adobe, attached on both sides to the adjoining buildings. The main floor was slightly larger than the upper, and a sloping tiled roof ran under a large second-floor window. There was no balcony or verandah. If Escobar came out the back, it would be through the window. From his vantage point Manuel knew he had a shot; not a great one, but he'd have to work with what he had.
Then it happened. Manuel heard a series of loud thuds as Martinez and his men used a battering ram on the heavy metal door at the front of the house. No more stealth now. He raised his head and shoulders above the wall and took aim on the window with his revolver. Seconds later the glass shattered and a chair flew into the yard. A figure kicked at the remaining shards of glass, then leapt from the window onto the tiled roof directly below. Manuel recognized him. It was LimÃ³n Alvero de Jesus, Escobar's personal bodyguard. He resisted the urge to fire and waited for the next figure. The man himself.
Escobar appeared in the window for a brief second, then jumped to the tiles below. Manuel waited until Escobar landed, then squeezed the trigger. The Smith & Wesson barked and sharp pieces of stucco flew about only an inch or two from Escobar's head. He fired again, but Escobar was already moving and the bullets smacked harmlessly into the pale stucco behind him.
Manuel briefly caught a glimpse of LimÃ³n sighting on him, then the wall in front of his face exploded and slivers of stucco slammed into his forehead and scalp. The pain was excruciating. Blood poured from the wounds, but he jumped up and lowered his gun at the running figures.
He pumped round after round at them, but they were moving too quickly and the shots missed. The hammer clicked on an empty chamber. He swore as he reached for his belt and another cylinder of live cartridges. Then, when it looked like the two men might escape, LimÃ³n jerked violently and fell face first to the ground, unmoving. A few seconds later, Escobar took three slugs in quick succession. The first one shattered his femur, the second cut through his chest cavity and the third smashed squarely into his skull. He dropped straight down, his body falling hard on a pile of cinder blocks and tiles. Blood pooled under the body and small rivulets ran off the broken tiles onto the parched earth.
Manuel glanced quickly around. He saw movement on the roof behind him, then the figure was gone. But the image stayed. American. CIA. He knew the face. Christ, the Americans had been monitoring the Search Bloc cell phones and had moved in and covered the rear of the house before Martinez could get his men in place. Thank God they had been in position.
He jumped from behind the wall, wiping the blood from his eyes as he ran to the prone figures. With his revolver pointed directly at LimÃ³n's head, he kicked the corpse. Nothing. He lodged his toe under LimÃ³n's shoulder and lifted. The body rolled over, dead eyes staring at the midday sun. Manuel glanced up at the window where police and Search Bloc members, guns in hand, watched his progress. He approached the second body with caution, the Smith & Wesson leveled and his finger on the trigger. Just as he reached the body, a sound from behind startled him. He turned and saw Col. Martinez entering the yard from the alley. The crunching of broken tiles underfoot was the only sound as Martinez walked quickly to where Manuel hovered over the body. Together, with their guns at the ready, they rolled over the corpse.
It was Pablo Escobar.
Martinez stared at the dead man for a few seconds, then turned to Sanchez and quietly said, “You did it, Manuel. You found our needle in the haystack. You are a true Colombian hero.”
He swiveled about and raised his arms above his head, smiling to the men staring down from the second-floor window.
“Pablo Escobar is dead,” he yelled.
The men erupted into cheers, slapped each other on the shoulders and shook hands. Each wore a smile. The devil was dead. The nightmare of looking for one man among millions while suffering daily reprisals from Escobar's death squads was over. Some semblance of normalcy could now return to the streets of MedellÃn. The men dispersed as the coroner arrived to remove the bodies and transport them to the morgue. Martinez and his crew headed to their office to fill out the paperwork, but today they didn't mind. They would stop at the local tavern later and drink beer. This was a great day.
Unnoticed amid the commotion, an older Mercedes with tinted rear windows was parked a block to the north. From there the two occupants had an unobstructed view of the house where Escobar had hidden. The two men watched the bodies being removed. The coroner slammed the rear doors shut and left the street, followed by a bevy of police and army vehicles. Only then did the man in the rear of the Mercedes tap the driver on the shoulder. The car pulled away from the curb and turned the corner, disappearing into the congestion and chaos of MedellÃn.
The figure in the back seat bore a striking resemblance to Pablo Escobar.