A young boy asked John Wayne’s character in the Shootist why he was a famous gunfighter after Wayne had just demonstrated in target practice that he was only an average shot. ‘Because I’m willing,” Wayne says, “and most men are not.”
The Wall-at-the-Mall honors 58,226 American soldiers who died in Vietnam. There’s still a lot of MIA’s and a category called “other” listed in the Department of Defense website. I’m not sure what other is. America got its ass kicked in Nam. If you want to sugar-coat it, use three-parts powdered sugar to one-part boiling water. It makes for a nice glaze on a jelly-doughnut.
If we won the war, it was an interesting victory celebration held on the rooftop of the American Embassy with slicks swooping in every ten minutes to whisk off the victors.
I spent 121 days in Nam in 1974. I was a supply warrior. I never fired my rifle and I never saw the enemy. I received a DD which was mostly trumped-up bullshit. The Laotian tar the Mostly Pathetics found in my pack was put there by my Top who was already being hauled away on a free-ride home. He’d been distributing for two years. He put a lot of guys in Saigon in a velvety stupor.
I didn’t put up much of a fight. I’d been smoking hash all day from my desk at Bien Hoa, 30 clicks south of Saigon. At the time, the brig meant a safe, one-bunk stateroom guarded by guys who didn’t necessarily like me, but kept me safe from Charlie. The MP’s also knew I had connections so I ended up with more whiskey and hash than most of the louies and caps on base.
Vietnam was a war we couldn’t win, not unless we dropped a Fat-Man on Hanoi in the guise of saving lives like we did ‘45. You don’t beat guerillas with a conventional army. Hello, wasn’t that the point in 1776?
America’s military presence in southeast Asia in 1974 to 1975 was like a stool that had a hard time flushing. We were on our way out. Search and destroy had morphed to search, put in a file, and ship home. That was my job as an inducted musician, turned file clerk.
Everyone was anesthetizing. Brass preferred alcohol. Guys back from the bush smoked A-Bombs (marijuana and heroin joints), new arrivals did Blue de Hue (straight pot) and creative chemists like me did Basuco which was coke-paste-residue sprinkled on a Black-Bart joint.
What went wrong? I don’t know and don’t particularly care. I considered Nam a beaucoup cluster-fuck, but then, what do I know, I’m just a billionaire who buys mosquito nets.
My gig is helping people in Africa. It’s my personal crusade. Three people die from Malaria every minute. That’s a fact. Google it. I consider this a war on humanity. Malaria comes from a fucking bug that lands on people, usually in the night, draws blood and flies away. Babies and old people die within weeks if they don’t get treatment. The cost to prevent Malaria for a family of four with a bug-off treated net is $4.56. The excuses by every world power for not addressing the problem is priceless. This isn’t about some trumped-up jihad or dispute over boundaries or ethnic hatred or ranting from self-proclaimed prophets hiding in caves, or right-wing zealots that light candles under a shrine to Ronald Reagan. It’s about common sense when a life can be saved for less than the cost of a Big Mac and fries.
I work with two partners, Bradley R. Kent (Brick) a certified genius whack job and Ricardo De Villa (The Raging Angel.) a retired UFC cage-fighting champion who still has his chops and uses them on mean people who piss him off. We made our first billion counterfeiting 10’s and 20’s. We’d still be doing it, but for the fact that if we got caught — we’d be playing butt-tag in Leavenworth for the rest of our lives.
Our next bazillion came from a legitimate source — Wall Street.
Brick, whose IQ ranks him just below Stephen Hawking, developed a cancer therapy. It isn’t a cure. It’s a treatment that isolates cancer cells in a sort of embryonic sack that does two things; it stops the spread of the morphing cells and makes it easy for surgeons to remove the sack in a procedure about as complicated as extracting an impacted molar. Cancer turned into outpatient surgery.
When the treatment started working on Brick’s cancer, he published his findings in the American Journal of Medicine and then registered a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We formed a closely held corporation and the bidding war started with every major pharmaceutical conglomerate several months before we even filed an IPO. By the time it went public, the bidding had topped eight billion dollars.
This led my partners and me to our next great crusade — Mexico! If you think Nam was bad, consider Mexico. In Mexico, between 2007 and 2010 — 34,550 homicides related to organized crime were reported. That’s only the reported homicides! Considering the lack of reliable information, and fear of obvious reprisals, it might be safe to double that number. Are there humanitarian concerns here? Oorah, Fucking-A! Will the U.S. send in boots, Humvees and tanks? Why would they? There’s no oil.
Mexico used to be a great place to visit; amazing beaches, culture, music, food, and a laid-back society that stopped around 2 p.m. and then partied into the night. But Mexican cities were becoming ghost towns for fear of violence. So called ATM hijackings were as common as Michoacan Indians selling Chickletts gum in Tijuana. As long as drugs remain illegal in the U.S., cartels will remain rich and powerful. The outlaws rule. It’s a wild-west led by the Al Capone’s of the 21st Century. The cartels are monsters. They are well-organized, well-funded, powerful, and elusive.
We’ve started our own private war against them. We’re rich and we play dirty.
Cabo San Lucas
At 2:15 a.m., a heavy man of average height, dressed in a black, tailored suit approached Ricardo DeVilla from the lobby of the Finnestera hotel, located on the narrow peninsula that juts to lands-end arch on the west-side of the bay of Cabo San Lucas.
The man was a lieutenant in the Beltran cartel whose nickname was “The Snake.” Rumor had it that the Snake despised Beltran and that a coup was imminent.
He was smoking a cigarette and walked slowly. He was alone. The moonlight reflected off his high-gloss oxfords. He stopped ten yards from Ricardo and spoke good English, “Ricardo DeVilla, it took balls to come here — to my backyard. You know, I own this city and could have you shot by simply raising my right hand,” he said, blowing smoke from the side of his mouth.
Ricardo ignored the threat, “Do you have what I requested?” he asked.
“I should ask the same of you,” the Snake replied.
“Yes, I have what I promised in this briefcase. It’s yours if you give me what I asked for,” Ricardo said, looking hard into the eyes of a man he despised.
The Snake avoided his glare.
“How do you know I won’t just have you shot and take the money? There’s a price on your head worth more than what you’ve offered,” the Snake said, smiling.
“I’m aware of that and could give a shit,” Ricardo said, raising his right hand. “But I’m guessing, anything that hurts Beltran or makes him appear weak is good for you — comprende? Look at your chest. The men you placed on the rooftops are dead. They were incompetent. I’m told one was smoking a joint listening to music on an iPod. I’ll have your head one day, but for now, I need you, and will keep my word if you provide the information I asked for.”
The Snake looked down at his chest and saw two dancing red dots emanating from the laser points of high-powered rifles sighted-in from the roof-top across the patio. He looked around nervously. Sweat began beading on his forehead.
“You’re crazy if you think I can tell you where the general is being held. He’s constantly moved, I don’t know where he is.”
“That’s not good enough. I asked for Beltran’s personal number. Get on your knees!” Ricardo demanded.
“What?” the Snake asked.
“I said get on your knees!” Ricardo shouted.
Three Caucasian men, returning from the town stopped in their tracks. They weren’t sure what they were witnessing. “Whooaaa,” one of them said.
“Are you going to kill me?” the Snake asked, his voice now shaking.
“That depends. If I’m not satisfied with the number, I’ll cut off your head,” Ricardo said, pulling a titanium blade sharpened to surgical precision from a sheath beneath his jacket.
“I can’t guarantee he’ll answer, please, I beg of you.”
“You worthless piece of shit, I’ve seen more courage in children dying of cancer. I want General Lopez back! Dial Beltran now and hand me the phone. You had better make sure he’s the man who answers — or your heads gonna roll down this hill and I’ll hang your body from the flagpole.”
“I told you, I can’t guarantee he’ll answer,” The Snake said, now holding his hands together.
“You have five seconds,” Ricardo spoke, calmly.
The Snake pushed the cell numbers frantically on a Blackberry. A man answered, “Why the fuck are you calling me in the middle of the night!”
Ricardo took the Blackberry from the Snake who had already pissed himself and held the phone to his ear. The voice again screamed again, “I said why the fuck are you calling me at this hour!”
“Beltran, this is Ricardo DeVilla, you have Lopez and I want him back. Have you spoken to your sons or their nanny this evening? Oh — they may not be at the Ritz Carleton, in fact, I’m quite sure they’re not. I’m going to hang up and send you an email with a photo attached. When you receive it, you’re to call me back immediately at the number you’ll see on your screen. I expect your call within two minutes or I’ll kill your sons and send their heads to you in a box. You have two minutes!” Ricardo said, and then hung up.
He removed his Smartphone and sent Beltran an attachment of a photo showing Beltran’s two young sons and their nanny, blindfolded and standing against a wall. He had no intention of killing the boys. They were eating chocolate cake and watching Ninja Turtle videos, but he knew Beltran (the boss of one of the seven largest cartels in Mexico) would kill two innocent children if the roles were reversed, and he relied on Beltran’s narcissism to act quickly.
He looked at the pathetic figure on his knees in front of him.
“Take off your clothes, do it now! Quickly!” Ricardo shouted.
The man removed his clothes. One of Ricardo’s commandos ran to his side. “The chopper will be here in five minutes,” he said.
“Tie his feet and hands together. I’ve decided what we’re gonna do with him” Ricardo said, smiling.
A minute later Ricardo’s phone rang. It was Beltran.
“Okay, I’ll exchange Lopez for the boys.” Beltran said.
“Good, wise move, I’ll need the General alone in a field with exact GPS coordinates within one hour. We will pick him up. Once we have him, I will return the boys.”
“No — we exchange Lopez for the boys at the same time,” Beltran screamed.
“No — we do it my way, or they die. You have one hour,” Ricardo said, and ended the call.
The rest of his team was at his side as the sound of a Bell 450-Turbo-Jet chopper filled the air. It landed in a grassy area by the fountain.
“I want to tie the drop-rope to the Snake’s waist and we’re going to set him down in the middle of Plaza San Basillio. First, I need to do a bit of artwork.” He took the blade and carved “baby killer” on the Snakes chest.
“Let this be a warning. I have more intel on you and your family than you can imagine. I know every move your brother makes; I know when he cheats on his wife and when he takes a shit. I know when your mother visits the market to buy produce and when your father walks his dog. I’m only sparing you because you’re my messenger. We are at war. My partners and I have the resources and we will bring you down even if we have to spend every dime we own. For every person you kidnap, we’ll kidnap two of yours. I’ll be your shadow. Be aware that my eyes are on you and the men you work for. My associates and I don’t work for any government and aren’t bound by any rules. Time is your enemy. The people you terrorize have had enough. Your kind will be wiped off the face of the earth. That is my promise to you,” he said, and then fastened the ranger drop-rope to the Snakes waist. He hopped in the chopper and signaled the pilot to lift off. The Snake hung from the chopper as it flew towards the well-lit Cabo town square. The chopper slowly descended, and Ricardo cut the rope when the Snake was fifteen feet off the ground. He opened the briefcase and threw the stacks of bills out the door. “I almost forgot your payment,” he shouted at the crumpled figure below being rained on by $100 bills of monopoly money.
“Vaminose!” he shouted, as the chopper sped off into the night.
“Nice work Rojo,” Ricardo said, to his sweating friend and former captain of the Mexican Special Forces.
“I expect a call from Beltran any minute. We’ll get the General back,” Ricardo said, patting his good friend on the leg.
He was on the phone to Bradley R. Kent, aka: The Brick.
“Mission accomplished good buddy, I’m expecting a call from Beltran any minute with coordinates for the general. We know it’s in the general vicinity of Ciudad Juárez so we’ll have a chopper ready as soon as we get the call.”
Ten minutes later Ricardo received a text from Carlos Beltran with General Pete Lopez’s location. Rojo called his former base in Ciudad Juárez and gave them the pick-up coordinates.
“Good work men, the drinks are on me,” Ricardo said, opening a $500 bottle of Grand Patron Premium Tequila.
The clear sky above the Sea of Cortez was lit by a million sparkling lights and a large white pearl as the chopper sped north.