AUTHOR: J Fairfield Perry
TITLE: “Warning: Say No or Die”
GENRE: novel (partial)
LOGLINE: Drug War Dilemma: an ex-drug enforcement agent discovers a scientist’s plan to kill all cocaine users.
Warning: Say No or Die
a novel (Partial) by
J Fairfield Perry
Chapter 1: PLAY DEAD
Montgomery Childers looked at his cheap diver’s wristwatch. The second hand clicked through the last minutes of the agent’s life. He’d placed his other watch, a forty-thousand dollar Rolex, on a carefully positioned cadaver’s arm. The corpse was propped up in the yacht’s aft cabin waiting to die again.
Childers had bought that expensive timepiece with cartel drug money and had ‘GATO’ engraved on the back. Now he‘d left it on the wrist of a dead man to help identify the wearer.
He’d purchased another jewel encrusted Rolex as an intended peace offering for Abraham Gutierrez. Childers had the jeweler engrave ‘APE’ on that one. Ape Gutierrez was the man to be tight with and stay on his good side. No one wanted that clumsy drunk to be unfriendly. But the diamond-studded gift didn’t change the target of the bloodthirsty cartel hit-man.
Childers’ catlike instincts told him he would soon be dead from the killer’s heavy hand. The situation had become, be assassinated or be the assassin.
Ape lay half drunk, snoring like a bull walrus on the yacht’s sun-deck.
Childers would make that nap eternal.
To remain alive, while appearing dead to the world took careful planning, so the deep cover DEA double agent … cartel nick-name, ‘Gato’, had bought a not-yet-embalmed body from a Honduran undertaker, dressed it in his own clothes, put his own engraved Rolex on its wrist then placed the disguised cadaver in his living quarters of the drug-laden yacht.
He’d stowed the deceased stand-in sitting alone holding a lit cigar in one cold hand, TV clicker in the other.
Childers picked up his air tank, looked over his carefully prepared death stage then glanced at the stiff. “Thanks for filling in for me, pal. Enjoy the fireworks.”
Creole would set the bomb timer in the engine room and meet him on the yacht’s deck. She hated her family for dealing in the dirty business. Creole Escobar wanted to escape the stigma of being niece to the dreaded drug lord Pablo.
Again, Childers checked his time. The second-hand of the divers-watch clicked toward the twelve. High-noon, was moments away. All hell would hit soon and blow like a Caribbean hurricane.
Carrying his scuba gear, he stepped carefully through the stateroom’s door onto the yacht, PABLITO QUEEN’s starboard deck.
Creole and he had plotted their moves and practiced together many times, preparing for their dive to freedom. They’d planned to go north, south, east or– with a barrel of the cartel’s drug money. With new identities they would enjoy renewed lives together.
The deck was wet and slippery.
Creole came out of the mid-cabin door exactly on time. She carried her air tank on one arm and was trying to put her other arm through the tank’s strap.
As they rushed cautiously along the deck rail, Childers spoke quietly, “Hurry. Wait till you’re in the water.”
They’d spent good time practicing, preparing for this escape together. Creole loved to swim in the warm Caribbean, touching the friendly delicate fish. They seemed to know her. Her long, red hair waving under the clear Caribbean waters hypnotized Childers. He could hardly stop himself from staring into those beautiful always changing gray, blue-green eyes. They melted his heart.
They had sat in the clean sand and planned this escape down to the last second. She’d promised, “I’ll do whatever I can to keep us alive and together.”
He had set up their new identification. The papers waited in a Honduras bank vault.
As the couple hurried side-by-side along the slippery deck, he grabbed her hand and pulled her close. “When we go over that rail we’ll be free.”
“Alive and together forever,” They kissed. “I better not break a nail. Let’s go.”
As they ran past the aft-cabin door, he let her hand slip from his and said, “A few more steps and we’re on to our new life. Go off the stern and head for the bottom.” Then he turned, lunged and jumped over the side-rail.
As the splash-bubbles rose away, he righted himself, cleared his face mask and looked around for Creole. All he could see under the surface were a few frightened fish scurrying away. Sharks, attracted by the action, would show up soon. Time was running out. She had to be under the water before the bomb fuse clicked. He swam quickly to the surface and looked back to the yacht.
Creole had slipped and fallen on the wet deck. She was tangled in some deck lines. Ape Gutierrez was scrambling down a ladder toward her.
Childers grabbed frantically at the water trying to get back to the boat as the second hand arced through its path and touched the XII.
The flash was silent. Concussion from the exploding boat went off inside Childers’ brain. He felt heat and instinctively ducked under water just as the blasting wall of fire smacked and burned down the back of his neck. He dove a few feet down and looked up at the water’s surface. Large chunks of the yacht splashed into the clear Caribbean and sank around him. He screamed into his face mask, “I killed her, I’ve killed her.” He grabbed his seared neck and sunk slow and alone whispering, “I’ve killed us … Creole, we are both dead now.”
His breathing bubbles carried her name upward and away.
Half a world away, in a University frat house, Jeremy Wright sat on the floor watching his life-long friend, Bobby Black, lean down and place his face close to a pretty girl’s suntanned body. He nuzzled the woman’s stomach then turned slowly and looked up. His voice was hoarse. “Just a couple inches more and we’ll be there, Jeri-me-bro
The pretty girl lay back with one elbow on the party-room carpet. She pushed on Bobby’s chest, shook her head and squealed, “Bob-eee. Your nose teeckles my belly-button.”
Outside, rock music roared from huge speakers. The patio doors rattled. Inside, mind-ripping Rap played on the TV. Jeremy covered his ears.
Bobby placed a finger on the girl’s knee, drew it upward on her leg and cheered, “Go on, Hector, my man, lay some more on her. I’m goin’ down.”
Hector, the stranger from nowhere, turned his medicine container over and tapped its plastic bottom. White powder emptied out and made a small peak on the girl’s leg. He replaced the empty bottle in his pocket. His hand fumbled there for a few seconds. When he pulled it out, something else was clenched in his fist. With a toothy grin, he whirled it in a circle, then with a magician’s flick-of-the-wrist, produced a black object. It spun in his hand, flashed, clicked and snapped into a lethal stiletto.
Bobby sat wavering. His wide eyes were ghostly bloodshot. In a voice barely audible above the party din, he yelled, “Hector, damn man, that is a mean butterfly. You’ve been practicing that move.”
Hector waved his blade. Then, like a surgeon making a delicate incision, he adjusted the powder-peak on the girl’s thigh and formed it into a two inch pointed line.
Jeremy nervously squeezed one hand into a fist, pressed it on his forehead and said, “Maybe we’d better stop, Bob.”
“No way bro, I’m gonna’ get that prize.” Bobby laughed, leaned down and slid his nose up the sun-tanned leg. He paused when he reached the tail of the cocaine arrow, then slapped the carpet with one hand and pressed a finger to the side of his nose. He inhaled a quick breath, pulling the fluffy drug deep into his lungs, then raised up, rubbed his nose and rolled lazily back on the carpet. Turning his head, he slurred, “All right, Jeremy-bro, your time to try for the golden pussy-puff.”
Hector fumbled in his coat and brought out another small plastic bag. The stiletto snapped again and he used the switchblade to slit open the new package and take out some contents. He laid out a white line and folded his deadly tool. Another arrow now waited on the girl’s thigh pointing closer to the prize. The line invited. The taker would get the prize and win the night undisturbed with ‘Exotica’, the girl Hector brought to the party.
Jeremy got to his knees, best position for the winning sniff. His gaze enveloped the girl’s tantalizing figure. He leaned close, hesitating and studied the strip of powder on the Lady-in-waiting. Taking a breath, he rubbed his nose, pausing, and glanced back to Bobby-bro for good luck.
Bobby Black had run out of luck. His red eyes rolled back. One hand clutched his chest, his other slapped at the floor. His body stiffened. Legs shuddering, he kicked uncontrollably. His head snapped back. He began grabbing violently at his throat.
“Ooh, no,” Jeremy screamed, “Bobby, no don’t. His tongue. He’s choking, he’s choking. Stop him.” Jeremy jerked back from the girl’s leg, rammed Hector aside, jumped on Bobby, pulled his hands down and pinned him to the floor.
Party-gone-bad pandemonium broke loose. Cries for help, screaming, “Nine-one-one. Nine-one-one.”
Bobby’s neck veins stood out, he spluttered foam from clenched teeth and struggled in Jeremy’s arms.
“Hold on Bob. Oh God,” Jeremy wailed, “No, noo. Someone help, he’s my brother.”
Sirens shrieking and red lights flashing, the paramedic’s van arrived, whining down to a halt.
Jeremy sat huddled over Bobby and stared, dumbfounded at the chaos happening around him. As if in slow motion, the party characters played their roles and moved in delayed action. The scene, and those actors who carried it out, would create ghostly after-images. He looked into Bobby’s pleading eyes, forced a weak smile and urged, “Hang on bro, we’re graduating tomorrow.” That fading beam of light he saw would remain forever engraved in Jeremy’s memory.
Hector, during the furor, threw down his bag of drugs, grabbed Exotica, rammed through the back door and raced away in his red Ferrari.
The police came in, pushing the party people, grabbed others and dragged some away. Girls were screaming. During the commotion, Jeremy picked up the small bag of white powder and stuffed it down in his sock. When the Medics took Bobby to their van, Jeremy climbed in with them. The ambulance moved. A siren growled and began its whine.
As they raced screaming through the Los Angeles streets, Jeremy leaned close to his friend. A solitary tear crept down to pause, hanging onto his nose. He gripped Bobby’s hand and looked into his face. “I can’t let him die. We’re supposed to graduate together.”
Jeremy’s tear dropped into Bobby’s vacant, lifeless eye.
Chapter 2: OD’n CRY
Three years later in El Paso, chemist, Jeremy Wright Black studied his research conclusions and thought of the heart-breaking experience of watching Bobby die. Now he would settle the score. His keen scientist’s memory had replayed the graduation party scene many times in painful slow motion. He could never forget the pleading look in his friend’s eyes, as the cocaine passed into his brain. Like a silent cloud of black soot, that poison had smothered the life force and killed forever Bobby Black, his life long friend and happy brother.
Three years ago, why hadn’t he just grabbed Bob and told him no? We’re goin’ Bro, we’re out of here. Say goodbye.”
But the reckless impetuous Bobby Black had just laughed and said, “Aw, just one time won’t kill me, man. You’re next.”
The memories raged vivid in Jeremy’s mind. He buried his face in his hands, pounded his elbows on his desk and squeezed his aching head. “I could have saved him. But, I’m here now and–” One snort, just one time and he was gone. “They’ll all be sorry,” he growled.
Why didn’t he throw Bobby in the pool and jump on him? They could have splashed around, fighting a mock battle and maybe pushed in a girl or two. The wet four might have gone together over to Jock’s Den, to dry off and have another pitcher of beer.
Exotica, that coke-whore. Damn, she was hard to forget and Hector, the filthy son of a bitch. Who invited him to the party? I’d like to find that evil-dealer, dirty-rotten bastard and kill him. Shoot him up, stab a needle in his arm and pump him full of PCE-4u compound. Peace, Hector, peace for you. Die, you slimy, evil, inhuman– Jeremy remembered and cursed the drug pusher. It was that repugnant bastard’s rotten cocaine that killed Bobby-bro.
Jeremy pressed his temples and thought of the look in Bobby’s eyes when he’d ripped at his own throat and strangled to death. The image had played through Jeremy’s memory for more than three years but it seemed like yesterday. Now, the tears welling in Jeremy eyes were not from pity, they were from anger. He’d sworn to avenge… But how? What could he do? He was only a chemistry student then, and cocaine was everywhere.
He’d kept the captured stash of Hector’s drug and taken it to his laboratory to discover its chemical secrets. He’d promised himself that he would destroy the poison, all of it, everywhere. The simple cocaine hydrochloride molecule comes from a living plant. It’s a floral herb, which kills people. That’s what made the young scientist study it, decode and learn the coca plant’s genetic secrets.
Bobby was killed and Jeremy had gotten everything, even his Bro’s parents. Elizabeth and John Black loved Jeremy like their own son. “We’re brothers,” Bobby always told his parents, “We’re buddy-bros, for life.” The folks had caught on to it and loved Jeremy like another son.
Elizabeth and John Black had adopted Jeremy as their second son. Liz said he reminded her so much of Bobby. With their help, Jeremy Wright added ‘Black’ as his last name and graduated at the top of his class. He received special recognition from the scientific community for research on plant viruses and molecular biology. He astounded them at the University, with a paper about chemogenetic engineering.
The graduate chemo-genius moved to El Paso to work for Black Chemicals Inc. He took Hector’s stash of killer cocaine with him. He’d carefully saved it, placed it in a sterile glass jar and scrutinized it quite frequently. Every time he took a sample out to study, he recalled those pleading, dying eyes.
Scientist, Jeremy Wright Black was driven to learn why and how the drug killed his friend.
Hector’s cocaine stash was gone now. All of the essence had been used up, placed in test tubes, cooked, mixed with other substances and studied. Results from those secret experiments were observed, measured, analyzed and secretly recorded. Some of the modified cocaine had gone into the blood stream of lab-animals. Many of those small friends died. But those deaths, like Bobby’s, were necessary to help prevent more suffering.
Three years had passed and Jeremy had exactly what he’d always dreamed and worked for. He was now in charge of the facilities in El Paso and considered himself extremely fortunate. He had the company’s state of the art research laboratory under his complete command.
He wished John Black were alive. The recent loss of his adopter father and friend had been another heartbreak for Jeremy. He’d like to tell his dead benefactor about the other small, secret laboratory and what he had discovered there. The results from his clandestine research would amaze the world, especially the dark world of mind-mangling and body-killing cocaine.
After an all night session, working alone in his hidden lab, Jeremy was exhausted, sitting up dozing at his desk. Many times, he had checked over the results, observations and conclusions from his private research files. His brain was burned out from reviewing results. Now he was completely convinced … the answers were valid and very important.
Maybe he’d pushed his dangerous research a little too far. He realized that luck could soon run out for thousands of unwary cocaine users. However, it would all be for their own good. Wouldn’t it?
He could only imagine what would happen if his recent creation ever fell into the wrong hands. Well, on the other hand, any logical thinker will understand and probably approve of what he’d done with the secret mix. He could purge society of the cocaine scourge. His PCE-4u formula would eliminate so much misery from many thousands, possibly millions of lives. Bobby’s loss would be vindicated. His death had been horrible. Something good must come from it. And the consequences? Well….
Jeremy’s brain was tired, his bones ached and his exhausted mind needed rest. His job was the scientist’s. He’d leave the morality issues to someone else. He must tell Liz what he had discovered. She’d studied chemistry in college and would understand the dire repercussions. But what an important thing he had done. Jeremy needed moral support.
He’d call her.
Chapter 3: WIDOW
In Los Angeles, Elizabeth Black awakened to the sounds of freeway traffic. Even though the house she lived in cost two million dollars to build, the concrete wall surrounding the backyard could not stop the roar that came with the city’s growth. Out of control, LA continuously boomed and the city’s sound came roaring over the freeway wall. The sun wasn’t up yet. She sat, pensive, indecisive, then slipped into a sweat suit.
Her run today would be difficult without John at her side. That feeling of emptiness again overwhelmed her. Only half way through, she turned her lonely jog homeward and arrived just in time to hear the phone ringing.
She answered breathing hard, “This is Liz.”
A voice scratched, “I’ve got to see you.”
She recognized the voice and heard panic, “What’s the matter?”
His voice rattled a loud whisper, “Liz–” He cleared his throat. His voice came quick and low, “Liz, Mom, I’ve found out– My discovery, it’s devastating, it kills.”
While he spoke, two truckers battled for a freeway lane, blaring air-horns in unison. The racket rattled her windows. Masked in the sound of traffic, Jeremy’s discordant words were scrambled. “…worldwide.” She pressed the phone tight to hear, “…unnecessary death. My research … incorrect. It was not … Bobby had … It’s called ‘Pseudo’–”
“Stop. I can’t hear you, hold on,” She closed a window. “What are you telling me?
“I am telling you– no, no I shouldn’t. I can’t say more. You must come here.”
“But Jeremy, El Paso?”
“You’re the one person I can trust. It’s important. I will not– can’t tell you another thing on the phone.”
She turned toward the noisy freeway. “I have a meeting.”
“It’s important, very important. We need to talk. Seriously, seriously!”
She lowered the phone, looked at the grassy yard inside the wall, took a deep breath and imagined young boys’ voices mixing with the din that came over the freeway wall. She was alone and wanted to be with some she loved.
She replaced the phone to her ear, “Oh no, what do you–? What have you–? How serious?”
His voice came quick and deliberate, “What I’ve done is life or death important. I must show you, tell you, but not on the phone.”
“Oh, all right, say no more I’ll come, and–”
“Don’t tell anyone we’ve talked.”
His voice calmed. “Okay, yeah, keep it our secret.” Sounding a sigh of relief, he asked, “How soon?”
“As soon as possible. I’ll use our company plane.”
“Oh good. Mom, please be careful.”
She hung up then quickly looked in her company’s employee phone book. Finding the needed number, she pressed buttons and waited.
The company pilot sounded sleepy. “Hello, this is Harrison.”
“Mister Harrison, I’m taking a trip today. Please prepare for a flight.”
Harrison groaned a low subtle protest. “Yeah, okay, but they been doin’ some work on the Commander, might not be ready. How soon do ya need it?”
Liz was firm. “As quickly as possible.”
“Today? Damn, it’s so early.”
“Mister Harrison, I’m going today.”
“Oh, Christ. Yeah, yeah, I’ll get it ready.”
Why would Boris ever hire such a miserable person to work for the Black company? Probably saving a little in the budget. She suspected the pilot of being a boozer, but he’d always appeared to be sober while flying Black Corporation’s plane. Boris Kernoler, the company’s very efficient Chief Financial Officer, had checked Bradley Harrison’s flying credentials and recommended the pilot highly. John Black had trusted Boris’ judgment. They’d flown on business trips together. Nevertheless, she’d make sure there was no liquor on the plane, insuring that Harrison remain sober.
She decided to wear black to the office.
Chapter 4: METEOR
Early that morning, due east of Los Angeles, a solitary figure moved across the Mojave Desert. The man jogged naked and shoeless on rolling sand dunes. A small pack hung on his shoulder. Bathed in sweat, his body glistened in the autumn moonlight. The grueling run in the sand cleared his mind and purged his soul. Solitude and fatigue had become his chosen companions.
Time counts nothing and its measure has no meaning to a man with neither past nor future, except to number his steps.
Chest heaving, lungs harmonized with the strong pace, his coordinated breaths were smooth and controlled. In, one. Out, two-three. Daybreak approached from beyond the horizon.
On a sloping bank, he stopped to engorge his chest with free, uncounted air and looked back at his footprints. The track, dot-marking on moonlit sand, meandered through the sand-hills and disappeared, traceless, far off into dark shadows of the desert past. Alike his lifeline, it went nowhere, back into oblivion.
He wondered how close his steps had come to his friends, those woolly tarantulas that hunt for breakfast in the early hours and the silent sidewinders, sleeping alone, buried shallow in the warm sand. He had no desire to harm the delicate creatures, only to share their peaceful desert home and quell the longing he’d carried quietly.
His life was over, but like the small desert serpents, his eyes were always open.
Turning his head slowly, he peered across the desert into silent shadows and imagined gray, blue-green eyes looking to him from beyond the predawn darkness, their colors always changing. “Creole,” he whispered, and his breath carried her name across the dunes.
With jaw clenched, he rubbed his face and squeezed his eyes. Then, with a flick-of-the-wrist, flung sweat to the ground, turned his gaze to the high sand peak that challenged and began another climb. Aching legs drove down into soft sand, labored like pistons and pushed him on. Taut muscles rippled under the clear moon. Chest heaving, he reached the summit and looked upward. A pinpoint flash of light streaked death-silent across the sky, blinked out and vanished into blackness between stars. The meteor exploded and disappeared, unheard into dust. He imagined the fireball flying in his face and flinched, ducking. The flash brought back images. His neck tingled warm. He rubbed the burn scar, trying to make Creole’s face in the flames go away.
Struggling with final steps, he reached his goal, dropped the pack and fell exhausted on the sand. While the morning’s last starlight bathed his soul, a slight breeze brought the aroma of creosote blossoms to soothe his lungs.
He spread a white cloth on the ground, placed a clean towel over his head and sat quiet. He pulled his legs up and crossed them. With hands on knees, palms up, he looked at the faraway horizon. “Creole, Creole,” he whispered, waiting for the sun to shine again.
Chapter 5: THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND
Liz went to the window, looked at her empty yard, listened to the freeway noise and allowed herself just one more tear. Bobby was gone for almost four years, John, three months. Now she would fly to El Paso and see her other son Jeremy.
The confusing day became sad again in a lawyer’s office, discussing the estate and affairs of her late husband, then busy when she entered the Black office building.
Before going into the boardroom, she took Boris aside telling him, “Remember that trip I’ve been planning to San Francisco? I’m going there today, I need to visit John’s mother. I’ll be taking the company plane.”
“Frisco? You’ve planned that trip for weeks. We have important business here and now.”
“I’m going there today.” Her voice had resolution.
Boris raised a hand to point a finger, changed it to a disgusted wave, scowled at her and walked away shaking his head.
She remained aloof during the meeting, quietly observing subtle moves made by those members present. Boris, Chief Financial Officer, didn’t show up, so the meeting lasted longer than usual.
‘Lizzie Bee’, as John used to call her, had become the major, almost sole owner of the company. Black’s business dealings reached into all Central and South American countries. Liz suspected someone planned to takeover the chemical empire, now that John Black was dead and not here to take care of his interests. But she had Jeremy and with his help she hoped to control things.
The Black Corporation distributed insecticides, fertilizers and a variety of chemicals into the Latino third world. Coffee plantations used much of Black’s products. Colombia was the largest, most important area on the sales map, then Bolivia and Peru. The Bay Islands, Las Isles Bahia in the western Caribbean, remained the smallest of the sales territories. Black’s research and chemicals helped bananas and coconuts to grow abundant, tobacco and coffee strong.
Widow Elizabeth Black, now forced to enter the corporate ring, would fight for that which she had inherited. Some would see her as a helpless woman, stepping into a pit of business vipers. This widow planned to survive on the remains of her dead mate, and she knew her business. A delicate bite from her hourglass would disable even the stealthiest of corporate predators.
Only a handful of trusted employees knew the extent of her involvement in running and inner decision making of the corporation. She’d met John Black in chemistry class, at college. They’d married while in school and had a son. Science, their common interest, made it fun and easy to start a small exterminating business. Working side by side, they’d built the company into the powerful worldwide business. John and Elizabeth created a company that grew into the BLACK CHEMICAL CORPORATION.
Now, John was dead, Bobby was dead, Liz, alone.
Today, the young widow, petite but powerful, with dark auburn hair, and disarmingly soft gray blue-green eyes, wore a black dress with a blood-red sash tied loosely around her waist. She planned to spin a web. It would snare even the most wary, trapping those she suspected of killing John. Somewhere in Black, Inc., she suspected, were plans and activities of which she would not approve. She would carry on the investigation started by her husband.
She spoke to no one about Jeremy’s call and phoned the pilot again. He assured her, the plane was ready.