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3966x pt.2

Fiction
Ryan W. Morgan

3966x pt.2

Jay *Boss* Dawson is not a hero. Broke and beaten down, he half-works a shitty government job while drowning himself in whiskey and chasing tail to pass the time. But when a fully-loaded Mexican cartel cargo drone crashes in the backyard of his little blue rental home, everything changes.

Laredo, Texas

Monday, August 7, 2023

3:06 p.m.

I already fucked off three hours’ worth of my head start. The cartel would be sniffing around pretty soon, trying to find my trail.

Might be today, might be tomorrow. But soon.

Get your fucking ass in gear, Boss.

I ripped out of my parking spot, squealing the tires, heading for the highway. First, though, I stopped at Big Jim’s Discount Liquor to get some bottles of Beam, stashing five of ‘em in the trunk and taking one up front to ride shotgun. Also grabbed a case of Marlboros from the 7-11. Reds.

That should help with the ride.

Right about then, paranoia set in. Everyone who matters has seen seen No Country for Old Men. What if those cartel assholes had a tracking device in their cargo container?

I convinced myself they stashed a device in my trunk, via the container. How could they not take that precaution?

Reality— I couldn’t be entirely sure, so I would have to find a place where I could go through everything to check. Still, I would have to worry about something being inside one of the bricks of drugs. If they had something they could track in there, I was a dead man. A Llewelyn Moss. I could only be sure if I sifted through everything.

Besides some device, some technical way to track the container, what would they have to go on?

My house? I didn’t need to go back there.

Job? Fuck that place, what a joke.

Car? Ditch it.

Phone? Smash it.

Bank card? Give it away.

I was a sitting duck if I kept all that stuff long enough. The cartel would have people inside Verizon, Bank of America and the DMV. Each of those dirtbags would give me up in a second for drugs or money. They’d be questioning my landlord soon, and she’d sing like a bird, they wouldn’t even have to do cartel shit to her if they didn’t want to.

Another thought hit me: Why not just go to the police? Just tell them the story, bring them the money and the drugs and hope for the best.

Five seconds later, I knew I couldn’t do that.

The cartels have their people in all the police departments. They’d fuck me up in the end, kill me for taking the shipment in to the cops. Nobody could protect me from that, not even me. Plus, the whole investigation would cause a big stir, and it would come out that I showed up to work one or two days per week, tops.

If I went to the cops and survived after I’d be fucked.

No job.

No stash of shit in my trunk.

Still hunted by the cartel and hated by the corrupt government.

That is not the life for me. No sir. Nope. Fuck that.

You have one option, Jay Boss, get rid of everything and run like a nigger on Maury Povich.

Vanish.

Become a ghost.

The cartel had everything dialed in, everything their drug money could buy. And that meant everything.

Cops, politicians, assassins, women.

All of it.

If I hung around Laredo, they’d be up my ass in no time.

I should have felt more urgency. My thoughts and decisions should have felt heavier. My world turned upside down, and I needed to leave it behind. I just fucking got to Laredo, I hadn’t even settled in. But I wasn’t worried at all. I didn’t feel pressed or torn. Nothing unraveled. My thoughts weren’t chaotic. Time still passed one second at a time, sixty of them making up a minute. Everything was pretty normal. Everything was fine.

I took a swig of Jim Beam, lit a cig.

I tried to enjoy the ride out of Laredo. I guessed it would be the last time I ever saw it, that American and Mexican hybrid, the markets, the street vendors, the old colonial type structures, the slow pace. If I ever did return, it was sure to be years on.

Be realistic, Boss. That’s not going to happen. And I’m not gonna miss the heat. Not really going to miss any of it, to be honest. No idea what Davy Crockett was talking about, seems like he had it backwards.

My first instinct told me to head west. Get to New Mexico, get to California, maybe end up in San Diego. It may have been cloudy there, but they had the beaches, they had the golden sand. They had amazing girls. Instagirls, TikTok girls, Only Fans girls. All the different kinds of girls. Good tacos and tequila too, if I’m honest.

I almost did that.

At the last second, as I approached the open road, smashing the gas, I changed my mind. I took a swig of Beam and I thought about Larry Bird.

Weird, right?

No idea how or why Larry Bird popped into my head. But he did. That goofy mother fucker who could shoot the lights out. Larry Bird, my dad’s favorite basketball player. Whatever it was that made me think of Bird also made me think of Indiana. ‘Cause that’s where Larry Bird was from, my dad must’ve told me a thousand times.

And I realized something… everyone in the history of this country who drops everything and flees heads west. West. West. West. Kanye West. Jerry West. Every single time. But not me. Jay Boss Dawson was going to Indiana.

I’d park my ass there for a little bit and figure it all out.

Cruising, I lit a Marlboro, cracked a bottle of Beam. Turned the music up. Punched the gas and by punched I mean stomped on its throat. Brought the Malibu up to 85 mph, touched 90 a couple times, heading north, not west. I’d start chipping away at that list of shit to do, the shit to get rid of, all of it, while I was on the road.

Turned the music up again, ripped some Beam and a heater. Now I’m rolling. Talk about ridin’ dirty though.

About an hour into the ride, I turned the music down and called my friend.

‘This is Will.’

‘Oh fuck, you answered.’

‘What?’

‘No, I mean, thanks for answering.’

‘Yeah, man, what’s up? Haven’t heard from you, what’s been going on.’

‘Listen, I’m in trouble.’

‘What? What happened?’

‘A fucking drone crashed into my house.’

‘No shit?’

‘Yeah. But that’s not all. It’s full of drugs and cash.’

‘Jay Boss, you’re in Laredo. That’s cartel shit.’

‘That’s the best you got? I should have called a fucking jew lawyer,’ I said, laughing. ‘He’d have a plan.’

‘What did you do with it?’

‘Oh come on, Will. I took it. It’s in my trunk.’

‘Boss… Why would you do that?’

‘I don’t know, man. It was three-thirty in the fuckin’ morning. I got back from the bar late and the fuckin’ crash woke me up. I threw it in my trunk before I thought it through.’

‘You shouldn’t have done that.’

‘Well, I did. It’s mine now.’

‘The whole drone?’

‘No, man, just the cargo.’

‘Boss, you got to get rid of that shit.’

‘Too late for that, I’m rollin’.’

‘What about work?’

‘Work? I didn’t even go when I was in town. I skipped that shit almost every day. It’ll take ‘em a couple weeks to notice the paper stacking up on my desk.’

We both laughed.

‘So, yeah, man, by the time I even figured out what I was into they were already in my neighborhood looking for their shit. I saw ‘em, right there down the street. A bunch of Mexicans.’

‘Did they see you? They’ll kill you Jay-Boss.’

‘I know, man. I kept driving. They were looking at houses, looking for the drone, they didn’t even pay attention to my car.’

‘So where are you now?’

‘I went to the bar to get my head right. Couple whiskeys, couple songs, couple girls, you know. Driving now.’

‘You have to keep moving, Jay. Get rid of all your shit and get out of there. All of it! Do you hear me?’

‘Loud and clear counselor. Good thing I never stop.’

‘If you already saw them in the neighborhood, they found the drone by now. So they’re having some fucking paralegal look up property records to figure out who the fuck lives in your place. They’re gonna have a name soon, Jay Boss. They’re gonna come after you.’

‘I don’t own the house.’

‘So they’ll call the landlord and get it out of him.’

My landlord, Evvy. The cartel will eat her alive.

‘You’re right, she’ll sing.’

‘How can you blame her? They’ll cut her. Probably do it anyway. You got a few hours to get as far away from those guys as you can. Well, let me know how I can help.’

‘You already did. I just wanted a sounding board.’

‘If you stop moving, you die.’

‘And if I keep moving?’

‘We’ll have to see.’

We hung up and I turned the volume back up on the Malibu’s stereo. Some classic rock shit. Took a swig of Beam and lit up. Dirt, tumbleweed, ugly brush all around. The asphalt was the prettiest thing in my field of vision. I gripped the wheel with one hand, the other clutching my dwindling bottle of Beam. Swigged it. Exaggerated my breath out.

More Beam in the trunk, bitch.

The radio crackled with static, but I could still make out some old Tom Petty. When I lost the signal, I put in a CD, some hard shit, and lit up a new cigarette.

I hit Waco by the time I stopped. I found a Circle K, where I grabbed a Red Bull and hit the ATM. Punched in the numbers and withdrew $3,000. A while back, during a bender in Vegas, I had raised the daily limit. I never changed it back. Before that, I had seven grand in the account, and decided on the spot I would hold on to my card for another 24 hours to make one more maximum withdrawal, then I would ditch it.

As I grabbed the cash, I realized that would be a fuck-up.

Changed my mind.

Just from this withdrawal, the cartel would be able to figure out I headed north. There’s no way they don’t have some cocksucker working inside every bank. There’s no way. I’m gonna have to get better at this.

I saw that a guy was lined up behind me to use the ATM.

Vans, 501s, Billie Eilish tee, new tattoos.

I leaned in close and told the guy, ‘Hey, man. Name’s Boss. Now, this is gonna sound a little weird, but I have four thousand bucks on this card. It’s mine, I promise. You can check my ID if you want to be a pussy about it. Here’s the deal… you can have it, but on one condition. You can’t pull that money out for at least three days. You in?’

‘What… why?’

‘Seriously, don’t ask why. It’s not gonna get you in trouble or nothin’. You’ll be fine, they’re lookin’ for me, not you. Just fuckin’ wait and use the card at the ATM in three days. You can take out three thousand, and the rest the next day. Then just dump the card. Or hang onto it if you want, there will probably be more direct deposits from the Feds, I get like four thousand a month.’

‘Uhh, okay, I mean, if you wanna—’

‘Yeah, I do. Here’s the card. I’m trusting you on this, don’t fuck me and pull it out before Thursday. You promise?’

‘Yeah, man, that’s fine.’

‘Everybody’s such a dirty cocksucker these days. Can’t trust nobody in this shit-hole. Promise again.’

‘What?’

‘I said promise again, man!’

‘I promise.’

‘Okay, you’ll need this number.’

I took a pen and deposit slip from the ATM and wrote my PIN down, handed it to him.

‘Don’t fuck me. Don’t be a fuckin’ cocksucker,’ I said, walking away.

‘I won’t, man. Uh, thanks.’

I got back on the road.

The highway stretched northward, cutting through the rugged terrain of Texas before crossing state lines into Oklahoma. The high plains north of Waco gave way to the soft hills that marked the end of the run into Muskogee. The red Oklahoma sun hung, casting shadows that stretched across scrub and brush, a testament to the resilience of life in this unforgiving land. Contours. Vistas. Struggle and survival, I could feel the history of those who dared to settle this land. Those who overcame their own government’s attempts to hamstring them, to rout them out. To kill them. They were still trying, by the way.

My phone rang. Somehow, I heard it over the music blasting.

‘Will, what’s happening?’

‘Hey Boss… you know, I was thinking… since we hung up… I just wanted to say… remember that one night when we were at Harrah’s on South Shore? You remember? Blackjack… the girls…’

‘Of course I remember, Will. Why?’

‘I mean, well… just like with the cartel after you and everything—’

‘You don’t have to say it, Will. We both know.’

‘Just… thinking of that trip, man. Best time I ever had in my life. That’s all. And all the other times. We had some good times.’

‘Listen, man, you don’t have to get your goodbye in. I’m not going to let these fucks catch me. And, by the way, it’s stupid of you to call this number. I shouldn’t have called you either, I wasn’t thinking.’

‘That’s all I wanted to say, Boss. Get in touch when you can.’

‘You know I’m gonna do that, Will. I’ll get in touch when I have a burner. No need to get sentimental on me. And you know, you shouldn’t be calling me, bro.’

‘Alright, man. You be safe.’

I guessed I had seen Will for the last time. The cartel would have a long memory on this one.

I hadn’t calculated the total value of their shit in my trunk. I had no way to do that. I knew what a gram of cocaine and marijuana cost, but had no understanding of meth and heroin, not to mention the rest of the math involved.

I hadn’t even taken time to count the cash. Eyeballing, could have been a million. Could have been half a million. Could have been two. I didn’t fucking know. Whatever. A big fucking number, I knew that. At a minimum, nigger rich. Probably more than that.

You don’t take that much shit from the cartel and have them forget about it. Even if they dumped it in your lap.

Once they got into my phone records, they’d put a tail on Will. And, they might do spot checks on him for as long as I stayed on the run. That’s if they didn’t torture and kill him just for talking to me.

Poor son of a bitch. Just for being my friend. I fucked that up, like everything else. Stop fucking shit up, Boss. You fuck.

I frowned for a minute.

Fuck it, can’t worry about that now. Will isn’t stupid. Don’t mean they’re going to do anything to him just from a phone call.

When I bottomed out in Laredo, I thought I had already left everything behind. But this was a different kind of everything. Everything was really gone this time. When I put that shit in my trunk, it meant every single thing, all of it, even the type of thing I lost but thought just maybe I could get back someday, was gone forever.

My life was a hard reset.

Keep it moving, Boss.

 

Waco, Texas

Monday, August 7, 2023

8:59 p.m.

Four bucks a fucking gallon. I stopped in Waco to get gas. Shit was going back up again. I paid cash inside and went out to fill the tank. I cussed the shitty government in my mind and under my breath.

Fucking corrupt cocksuckers. I hate this country so much.

The vegetable’s handlers must have burned through all the reserves.

Another twinge of paranoia hit me under the bright lights of the Exxon station. My eyes darted around, suspicion chewing on me.

The cartel could be here.

The hot Texas air oppressed me. Unbuttoning my shirt under my suit coat didn’t help at all. The heat in Waco was as bad as Laredo.

I hate the fucking cartel.

I planned to hop back on the highway and continue heading north. The paranoia told me I needed to settle myself down. The whiskey and smokes helped while in the car, but I needed to sit down, to chill out, listen to music, have some drinks, fuck around on my phone.

The cartel is not here, mother fucker. They’re just not. They don’t know where you are, Boss. They don’t know you. Not yet. CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

I looked at my phone map for somewhere I could hang out. I settled on a place called J.S. Barnett’s Whiskey House. Right by Baylor, not too far from the Exxon.

Could be some college girls there. No, think positive. There will be some college girls there!

I could have grabbed a meal and found a room to get some sleep. Maybe a better call than hitting the bars, so of course I didn’t do it.

I’m just not practical, I guess.

I hadn’t put myself in a challenging situation over the past 15 months. Drinking, chasing women, pretending to work for DHS here and there? Easiest shit in the world. The drone crashing in my backyard ended that streak. That challenge came to me, and I needed to perform.

Life is on the line, Boss. And you’re going to a bar.

I took stock of how I had done so far. And I forced myself to be honest. Not great. Not great at all.

It was more than 12 hours, 720 plus x fucking minutes, since I opened the cargo container. And I made it 300 miles outside of Laredo. Heading to camp out in another bar. That’s just embarrassing. Fucking Jay Boss. What are you doing?

Options kept dancing in my head, some gone, some still remaining.

I could have just left the drone cargo where it was and let them come get it while I was at work or getting fucked up at Reyna’s. Maybe the cartel would have just taken it back and not fucked with me.

I could have pulled the drone out into the street, just fucking ditched that mother fucker in the street, gotten a faster start out of town, ditched my car and phone already, left my bank card in Laredo. I don’t know, shaved my head maybe. Or bought a wig and a dress to look like a girl. They call that ‘transitioning’ now.

Who the fuck knows? I could have done a bunch of shit, I guess.

That’s all over now.

The pressure chewed me up. To take my mind off of it, I started to fuck around on my phone as I smoked and drank. Soon enough I relaxed again, steady. Steady, Boss.

My phone kept me shitty company, I got bored with it right away. I swiped Tinder for a few minutes before switching over to X. I made it through five posts. Three of them were about how this group or that group were going to reintroduce Covid-19 measures. Schools, companies, whatever.

Pfizer’s stock price must be down.

Last time they pulled that shit, I left the country, heading to the Caribbean for a year-and-a-half. Back when I had my Luna money. They did some of that dumb covid shit while I lived over there, but for the most part easy to duck. Definitely not as bad as the states.

I just chilled out by the ocean. But, like I said, back then I had crazy crypto money, not cartel money. There’s a difference.

The other two posts I saw were from a well-known group calling for censorship of legal American speech. A lot of people had opinions this group didn’t particularly like, and they wanted those opinions off the internet.

Very controlling. Domineering, you could say. Subversive. Neurotic.

It was weird, because the group complained about ‘hate speech’ but at the same time launched the most hateful attacks and smears, always aiming them at White people. Like me. In my own country. Every single time, I muttered.

Fuck X. Enough of that dumb shit. I clicked out of the app.

I locked my phone and set it down on the bar. Ordered another whiskey, lit up again. I was restless because of the bad content on my phone and no available conversation. I looked around, trying to find something to occupy some time when I caught a glimpse of a dart board behind me, over my right shoulder.

Why not?

I went back and started throwing darts by myself, still sipping my whiskey and pulling drags from my Reds.

Played a couple warm up rounds. Solo.

I pumped one into an inner circle, not the bullseye, but the second circle out. Almost at the same time, I heard a voice behind me ask if I needed someone to play with. A girl’s voice. I turned and saw a Texas brunette, maybe a Baylor student, maybe not, not more than twenty or twenty-one, standing with a drink in her hand. Busty. Nubile. Perfect.

‘Yeah, I sure do. Name’s Boss.’

‘I’m Taylor.’

‘Like Taylor Swift? Can you sing?’

She giggled.

‘Well, Taylor, one of the first things I learned is never to ask a pretty girl what she’s doing in a bar on a Monday night.’

‘Do you really wanna know?’ Taylor grinned.

‘Absolutely not. That’s why I never ask.’

We started throwing darts, alternating turns, as we talked.

‘And what about you, what brings you to a bar in Waco on a Monday night, all dressed up?’

‘Oh this? It’s nothing, I work in the funeral industry. Burials at sea, down in the Gulf ‘a Mexico. A client’s family is here in Waco… and I’m just letting off some steam after meeting with them.’

Taylor looked at me as if she suspected not a single word that came out of my mouth was true. It sounded ridiculous, I have to admit. But she didn’t call me on it. She just went with it.

‘It’s cool that they can depend on you like that. Driving all the way up here and stuff. It must really help them.’

‘Well, yeah. That part’s not so bad. The job. It’s what to do after that gets tricky. I’ve spent years of my life hanging around dive bars, just drinkin’ and smokin’. I’m always worried I won’t find nothin’ to do.’

‘That’s pretty much me too. A girl can only study so much. Gotta have some fun, too.’

‘You look like you, uh, study pretty hard.’

“Of course I do. Nursing. But it’s weird ‘cuz my Only Fans is making more right now than I will as a nurse after school.’

Taylor was young, but she understood money already. Other things too.

I decided to pretend to be serious. To work a setup.

‘Sometimes life drives us to places we hadn’t intended. But you can’t just live digitally on your Only Fans. That can put you in a shell. No human contact, shit like that.’

She took the bait. I could see it in her smile.

I kept going, ‘You just have to keep looking and you will find what you’re looking for. You got to make time for things.’

Without saying much more, I guided Taylor into a staff break room. Mismatched furniture and faded posters. A little staff fridge full of energy drinks I could see through the glass door. She didn’t resist. We did it standing up and then we went back to the bar for another drink. A few more stories, mostly bullshit, and we called it a night.

I made it to the Budget Inn by 2:30 a.m., just about a mile back down the highway.

Paid cash, of course. Bank card was gonzo.

But the counter agent, a half-retarded bitch not worth an argument, did ask to see my driver’s license. Need to get a fake soon. I could tell from her face it was either show the damn ID or sleep in my Malibu. So, I flashed the fuckin’ ID while she typed my info on the motel registration computer.

I wondered if the cartel had a way to access nationwide guest registries, including this shitty dive motel in Waco, Texas. My inner dialog went back and forth on the topic like two kitchen maids tossing a hot potato.

The cartel would be able to get the list from their friends in law enforcement.

No chance… no way to do that. It’s not centralized like that in real time.

I stopped worrying. Fake ID became just another thing on the to-do list. And my to-dos were done when they were done, not any sooner.

I went back out to the car and lugged the container out of my trunk and into my room on the second floor. I speed-walked back outside to grab an unopened bottle of Beam and some Marlboros, dripping sweat by the time I returned to my room. The summer evening heat in Waco suddenly seemed worse than Laredo’s. Hard to believe, but it’s true.

I jacked up the air conditioner, but it spewed out lukewarm air. It smelled dusty. I slouched on the bed, the bottle of Jim Beam heavy in my hand. The outside lighting shined bright, and the room curtains would not close all the way.

Right then, I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep that night.

To distract myself from the misery of insomnia, I took a deep pull off the bottle of Beam. Then another right after that. Lit up a fresh Marlboro and took a couple drags. I blew the smoke away from the detector. Embers to ash. Smoke and Whiskey. Time rushed by, hours passing like they were minutes.

3:51 Fucking around on my phone.

4:24 Beam, Reds.

5:38 I think I slept for a little bit, felt like a dream.

6:42 Wide awake.

 

Waco, Texas

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

6:51 a.m.

I grew bored as fuck. Staring at the walls in that dump. Sleep, like food, became foreign to me. I tried to find something to occupy myself. I turned on the shitty little Chinese-made radio on the nightstand. The top 40 countdown played, tinny.

Some sexy bitch I had vaguely heard of was singing some shit that was rattling my brain. I zoned out, tried to mentally close my ears.

It couldn’t keep my attention, all the generic computer music blended together. It all sounded the same. I don’t give a shit if you could fry an egg on Dua Lipa’s incredible ass. Her music sucked.

Somewhere in there I fucked around in the cargo container. I remained paranoid about that transmitter from the movie. So I dug around, looking for one.

This time, I did a thorough job. Took everything all the way out of the cargo container before loading it back in. I was 99.9% confident nothing in there was sending out a tracking signal.

I did find a small black notepad, a Moleskine. I flipped through it. The notebook was empty, with the exception of two deep inscriptions on the inside of the front cover.

Rosa Negra

2724

And a pencil sketch, a rudimentary picture of a witch and a black rose. All looked as if they were written by the same hand. The words and the picture were retraced several times.

After I reloaded the cargo container, an idea occurred to me. I decided to crack open a brick of cocaine. It was saran-wrapped and Ziploc-bagged and taking out a few ounces wouldn’t hurt anybody. I’d wrap that shit right back up after taking a little tax.

The shit is mine now anyway.

I broke off and crushed up about three or four ounces, wrapped it in plastic, and put it in the pocket of my powder blue shirt.

I nodded off for an hour and woke myself up by talking in my sleep.

‘Rosa Negra. Rosa Negra!’ For some reason, that message in the notepad, along with the drawing, unsettled me. My Spanish may have sucked ass, but I knew that the words meant ‘Black Rose.’

Dark imagery, evil. The sketch actually made me think of my third-grade teacher. An awful authoritarian cunt if one ever lived. And the shit she enforced was all the latest woke trash of the day.

Ahead of her time, actually.

Woke wasn’t even that prominent back when I was ten, but this bitch had somehow heard of it all and tried to force it on us kids. Pronouns. Black worship. Cornhole month. Her shit was so fucked up its hard to put it into words. And she was relentless and mean.

Next I thought of death.

Of hatred and hardship and violence.

I snapped back to reality for a moment to consider my discomfort. My suit stuck to my body. Easier just to leave the fucking thing on than to get back into it. I kicked myself for not stopping somewhere on the drive and buying a change of clothes.

I pounded Beam and chain-smoked three Marlboros to try to calm my mind.

Rosa Negra would not leave me alone, though. It became the entire backdrop of my night, a name whispered over and over in my head. Its meaning eluded me, a secret. A puzzle demanding to be put together. But I had no pieces. Only two words. Black Rose. That and my imagination, running wild.

More Beam, more Reds. It isn’t helping. More.

A reflection of life’s contradictions? A flower, in bloom… but covered by blackness, by evil. A black rose. Written by the cartel, I knew it had to be a code of some kind. For some program, an action, a criminal enterprise steeped in hatred and greed and evil.

A fentanyl delivery.

A child trafficking program.

A hit-list. On and on.

My musings veered into the unhinged. ‘Rosa Negra’ was a symbol for the decline of the country. Turning a once-proud nation into a cesspit of drugs and despair and addiction and death.

Total misery, no end in sight.

The things this regime (the one I ‘worked’ for) was hell-bent on bringing to us. No, for the human soul. The attack on humanity, run from some shadowy organization like the Synagogue of Satan, except with Mexicans in charge. Old texts. Hatred for our kind, for the ‘gringo’, for the White man for stealing Texas or whatever other grievance they could gin up in their squat, oval heads.

No, it meant the cartel itself. No, a clandestine group running the cartel.

Black shadows and roses hiding secrets of corruption, violence, death, and riches beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

The reality was I didn’t have the slightest clue what Rosa Negra meant. And there was no way I could just guess it without further discovery. But that didn’t stop the wheels from turning, and it was aggravating to try to solve a puzzle without the pieces.

More Beam. More Reds. More frustration.

Who can help me figure this out? Who can I call? I had isolated myself in Laredo, I had no friends at work and only had short-term relationships with the sluts from Reyna’s. Most of them just a few hours. Some of them, no Ingles. I’m going to call them to help figure out Rosa Negra? I don’t think so. I have no one to call. No one would know anyway.

I spoke out loud, even though I was alone: ‘… Black Rose. It’s the cartel, acting out. Who knows who they are going to kill, what it means, who they will attack. The cops can’t help you, Boss. They’re not going to do shit. They’re in on it, really. You think that money doesn’t spill back to a bunch of ‘em. On the take. You go to them with Black Rose and they’ll deliver you right to the cartel. On a silver fuckin’ platter. They’ll cut your balls off. Then your head. They might be short and squat, but there’s nothing off limits for the cartel. It will be an inside job, a mole, but the cartel will kill you within a day of you going in. You’re on your own, Boss. Have been for quite some time…’

I took a few minutes to calm myself down. Swigged my whiskey, stubbed out my Red and lit and new one.

The thin walls of the motel seemed to deliver the sound of angry voices right to my ears. A black couple in the next room started a fight. Yelling in bad English, using made-up words and ridiculous grammar, generally banging around. Rattling my brain. After ten minutes of it I couldn’t take it anymore and left my room to tell the blacks to shut the fuck up, in those exact words. Keep the pistol on your waist, Boss, it’s not worth it.

7:16 a.m. Back in my room. Beam. Lit up a red. Coke from my pocket.

7:34 a.m. Time to get your ass moving, Boss.

I was ready to start the day. As the substances went to work on re-establishing my equilibrium, the shitty motel room’s cheap shabbiness faded into the background. I found myself, once again, embracing the momentary respite that smoke and solitude provided. I hadn’t thought about Rosa Negra in at least thirty seconds.

I decided to get back on the road. Before I left the room, my wardrobe captured my attention again. I wished I had something comfortable to wear. To change from the stale grip of my blue suit and overdone French cuff shirt. I’d kill for some shorts.

But I didn’t have anything. Become one with the suit. Embrace it. It’s part of you now. It’s the only way.

The Texas heat lay in wait for me outside, and I walked straight into the ambush.

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MAN’S WORLD is now available, for the very first time, as a high-quality printed magazine. Across 200 glorious pages, you’ll find everything that made the digital magazine the sensation that it was – the best essays, the most brilliant new fiction, interviews, art, food, sex, fitness – and so much more.

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