Prologue – Acapulco, Mexico
Ernesto De La Cruz knew he wasn’t an easy man to look at. He’d been cursed as a teenager with a case of acne that would have rivaled any leper in the Dark Ages for the scars it left behind on his skin. His entire body was covered with them, but the ones on his face he couldn’t hide. They were deep and made his cheeks look like those big craters out in the desert, the ones people paid money to look at, where some shyster claimed a meteor had struck the earth. Ernesto didn’t believe that bullshit. He also didn’t believe that the pretty dark-haired señorita who was currently batting her long eyelashes at him found him in any way attractive. What he knew she saw was the expensive watch, the designer suit and sunglasses, the shiny, two-thousand-dollar shoes…and maybe she’d gotten a glimpse of the fat money clip he’d pulled out of his pocket to pay for his drink. He was no fool, for sure…but that didn’t mean he was crazy enough to not take advantage of every opportunity that came his way, either. He raised his drink to the dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty and then downed the amber liquid and felt the burn as it slid down his throat and into his stomach.
He kept his own dark eyes, covered by the mirrored sunglasses, on the señorita, and took the buzzing phone out of his pocket. He knew who it was without glancing at it. The phone was a burner, and he’d been given it for one thing only, so that Tomas could get in touch with him. Tomas was the go-between for Ernesto and the man who was actually paying him for this job. Ernesto knew who he was working for, and he didn’t like having to deal with him through a “yes” man. He thought it disrespectful that a man who wanted another man dead couldn’t talk to him face to face.
Not that Tomas Locastro was a nobody. In the impoverished community that clung to a hillside in Mexico, where his boss had built an empire, Tomas was known as “El Dimonio,” or “The Demon.”
“Hola,” he said into the phone to Tomas.
“Speak English, puto!” Tomas snapped at him, and not for the first time. Ernesto didn’t like to be talked down to, especially by a “yes” man. Ernesto barely spoke Spanish. He only did it to antagonize Tomas, and it worked. Ernesto was born in Philadelphia and he’d even worked hard to rid himself of the strong East Philly accent. People thought it made him sound “stupid,” and that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Tomas was born in a border town in Texas, and it was obvious to Ernesto that he had worked hard to rid himself of his Spanish accent, which was why it annoyed him so badly when Ernesto spoke Spanish to him. What Ernesto knew about Tomas was that he had graduated high school, and he’d been the first in his family to go to college, and on an academic scholarship to boot. The man was said to be brilliant, and at that time he’d had an eye on politics. After obtaining a degree in liberal arts with a major in civics and minor in economics, Tomas had gone home to Texas and he had run for a local city office in his hometown, and won. He went from there to mayor of his home town, and then, just when he could almost smell the expensive interior of the Governor’s mansion, his little brother called him, and what he had to say changed the course of Tomas’ life.
His brother told him that their sister was in Mexico, in prison. She’d been in trouble before for drugs and prostitution, and this time she’d been caught trying to smuggle drugs across the border, but she was caught on the Mexican side and a Mexican prison was no place a man could leave his sister, even if she was worthless. The rest of the story was all rumor, but Ernesto heard that somehow El Dimonio had enlisted the help of one of the most powerful drug lords in Mexico City. His sister went home, but Tomas Locastro stayed. Whether it was out of debt to the cartel, or a liking for the lifestyle, no one seemed to know, but what Ernesto did know was that demons never worked alone. Tomas was working for the devil himself, a cartel leader named Pancho Gutierrez…and that was the man who had hired Ernesto for this job.
“How can I help you, Tomas?”
“He said he’ll see you.” Ernesto smiled. The money they were offering for such an easy job was more than he was willing to turn down, but he hadn’t let on to Tomas that he was even considering the job. Instead, he’d insisted on meeting the “Boss” first. He wanted one of the most important men in Mexico to look him in the eyes and tell him he needed his expertise. Ernesto made his living as a hitman, and he made a good one. But what Ernesto wanted, and needed, more than anything was not money. It was notoriety and respect, and a face-to-face with Pancho Gutierrez would be a giant step in that direction.
“Perfect,” Ernesto told Tomas. “Where and when?”
“We will meet you at the resort for breakfast at 9 a.m. tomorrow. You’ve had time, I trust, to map out your plan?” Tomas was staying at a posh resort in Acapulco, only minutes from the violence-ravaged community where the cartel had set up shop.
“Of course I have a plan.” Tomas and Ernesto had been talking for a week, but Ernesto had already “mapped out his plan” within the first forty-eight hours. He’d flown from Philadelphia to Boston, found his mark, followed him for a day, and decided this would be the easiest job he’d had so far. But of course, he wasn’t about to pull the trigger until he had exactly what he wanted…a meeting with Pancho Gutierrez, and a bag full of cash.
“Good. He’ll want to hear it.”
“And he will,” Ernesto said.
“Cabana 100, and don’t be late. Come alone and unarmed. If you try any funny business, you’ll wish your wop mother had never spread her legs for that filthy border rat of a father of yours.”
Ernesto felt the hot blood race through his veins. Obviously, Tomas had done his research as well. Nothing flipped his switch faster than someone calling his father a “border rat” or his mother a “wop.” His Polish mother had gone on a high school trip to Texas, where she met his father. She’d run away with him, but the two of them eventually returned to Philadelphia when they were out of money and had a child to feed. His mother’s grandfather had set them up in a place to live and he’d given her new husband, Ernesto’s father, a job in his landscaping business. His father worked hard, and his mother came from a good family, but Ernesto and his father never fit in. Their dark hair, eyes, and skin, and his father’s poor grasp of English, left them ostracized, and on top of that, Ernesto was teased unmercifully for his terrible acne. The kids called his father a “border rat” and when they were feeling really mean, his mother a “wop.” Ernesto took the abuse for years, but at the tender age of fourteen, he finally snapped, and he also snapped the neck of some asshole who dared to call his father names to his face. At first, he was euphoric. It felt better than anything he’d ever done. But of course not long after, he panicked and because he didn’t know what else to do, he went to his father and confessed. His father told his mother, and wanted Ernesto to go to the police and turn himself in. His mother had put her foot down then. Ernesto liked to think he got his cool head from his mother. Without so much as raising her voice she said, “This is what you’re going to do…” She looked at his father and said, “You’re pouring cement at the Lawrence Estate this week, right?” When he nodded she said, “Take that body, and plant him under the cement. Then, not a one of us is to say a word about this again, ever.” That was exactly what they did…and now at the age of thirty, Ernesto was working on his fifteenth kill.
He took a deep breath now, knowing that Tomas was only testing him, and he said, “I will be there, alone, and unarmed.” He hung up the phone then and motioned the cabana boy for another drink. After slamming that one back, he finally crooked a finger and motioned for the sexy señorita. She didn’t hesitate to come to him and he couldn’t take his eyes off the way her huge tits jiggled over the top of the sexy little pink minidress she was wearing. It was so short that if he tipped his head slightly to the side, he could probably make out the lips of her pussy. But he didn’t need to do that; he knew he’d be taking her back to his room and seeing all of her, all night long.
“What’s your name, beautiful?”
She batted those long, fake eyelashes at him and said, “Blanca.”
“Blanca, are you a whore?” She looked taken aback and with her painted-on eyebrows drawn together she said:
“No sir, I am not.”
She spun on her high heel and he watched her big ass jiggle before saying, “Wait! It was an honest question, considering where we’re at, and that you’re here alone.”
She turned slowly back toward him and now her eyes were filled with tears. “I’m in Acapulco with my girlfriend, but she found some hombre at the club last night and I haven’t seen her since. We leave tomorrow and I just decided that it was time I had some fun too.”
He put a big hand out and let it rest against one of her meaty thighs. She didn’t flinch. She might not be a paid whore, but this girl was no virgin. Ernesto was glad of that, and of the fact that no one would be the wiser if things back at his room went further than he wanted them to. He never meant to hurt them…but sometimes he lost his head, and one had to make the sacrifice. That was why he always chose whores, or society’s forgotten. He liked his fun, but it wasn’t worth prison time because he pulled the belt just a little too tight around that long, pretty neck by accident. “Well, Blanca,” he said, “my name is Ernie, and I think the two of us are going to have a great time together tonight.” Blanca blushed and giggled as his hand rode up higher on the back of her thigh. He liked that. But what really turned him on, what he really liked, was to hear them scream…