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The brotherhood, p.24
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       The Brotherhood, p.24

           Jerry B. Jenkins
 
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  “Is that a bad image?”

  She shrugged. “It wouldn’t hold my interest for long.”

  “Well, then I’ll come prepared to start the waterworks. Whatever it takes to hold your interest.”

  Boone walked her to her door and they embraced. “Leave me a message that you got home safe, ’kay?” she said.

  Boone nodded and waited until she was inside, then greeted the sitter and made sure the girl was in her car before he left. He had arranged with Pascual Candelario to be picked up on the street about seven blocks north of Boone’s apartment.

  Boone called Jack Keller at home.

  “I don’t like it,” Jack said. “Did he give you any idea where you’re going?”

  “North is all he said.”

  “Within the city?”

  “No idea.”

  “Not good. We like to be where we have jurisdiction and at least some control. We should be able to hear you wherever you are, but we have to know where that is as soon as you can determine it. What’s spooked him, anyway? Didn’t expect to hear from him for a while. Didn’t he say something about having plenty of time before January 6?”

  “Yeah, I don’t know. He just sounded bored to me, like he wanted to get out and do something.”

  “Great. So now you’re his current distraction from DiLoKi leadership?”

  “Something like that.”

  “I don’t even know where Wade is this weekend. If he’s away, I’m going to have to see who I can rustle up. I don’t like you hanging out there by yourself with this guy.”

  “We have to take what we can get, don’t we, Jack? PC is putting his whole life on the line for us. We don’t want to scare him off or offend him.”

  “Make sure you don’t wind up in some basement where we lose the signal.”

  Boone didn’t take the time to change clothes, and Candelario noticed as he slid into the front seat of Pascual’s late-model Benz coupe. “So I did interrupt a date, didn’t I, bro?” he said.

  “Matter of fact, you did.”

  “Sorry. At least I gave you the chance to show her who’s boss, huh?”

  “There’s no question who’s in charge with this girl, PC. I’m way out of my league.”

  Pascual showed a meaty palm and Boone smacked it. “You go, boy!” the big Mexican said. “Good for you.”

  “Where we going?” Boone said.

  “Who’s asking?”

  Pascual was smiling, but Boone was not in the mood. “You know who’s asking. I can’t go far without my people knowing exactly where I am.”

  “Evanston. There’s a lighthouse on the shore—”

  “Made of stone. There’ll be no signal in there.”

  “I’m talking about the little frame building next to it, so no problem.”

  “Yeah, but my guys will have to connect with the Evanston PD and—”

  “You want me to make it easy on ’em? This is not easy for me, man. It’s not like I can have any of my people looking out for me, you know.”

  “Don’t worry. They’re on it already.”

  “You bring your popgun again, Boone?”

  “You know cops are armed 24-7. You?”

  “It’s in the trunk.”

  “So why Evanston? Why does this deal have to be so complicated?”

  “It’s where I want to have the meeting next month, so I thought you’d want to check it out. You look surprised.”

  “You really expect gangbangers in their tricked-out Benzes and Bimmers and the Outfit in their big Town Cars to somehow sneak into Evanston?”

  “Wait till you see this place, man. Once we get off the Edens, we hardly go through any neighborhoods. Everything is tree-lined and dark until it feeds into the little lane that leads to the lighthouse. Give me some credit for planning, dude. I’m the one who’s got the most to lose here.”

  “We’ll see. What’s got you nervous about Jazzy?”

  PC shrugged. “Just a feeling, you know? This place, he wouldn’t even dream of it. It’s a place I know about, but he doesn’t.”

  “Then why worry?”

  “It’s my job, man.”

  “Well, meanwhile, finish your story, will ya?”

  “Yeah,” Candelario said, “where was I?”

  “It was starting to get to you that your mother didn’t give up on you.”

  It impressed Boone that Pascual seemed to have learned how to drive a fancy car without drawing attention to himself. Not too fast, not too slow, just moving with the traffic without excessive lane changing.

  “You got to remember what kinda person I was, Boone. Gangbangers, lifers, never learned to think about our feelings, and we sure never talked about ’em. Everything was instinct. Now when I watch those nature shows on TV—and I have to hide that too, of course—I see the birds that strut and show their feathers, the snakes that puff up and look bigger, the wolves and wild dogs that bare their teeth—that was us; that was me.

  “I didn’t talk about stuff. I didn’t think or feel. I just reacted. Every day when I woke up, I had stuff to do. First I had to make sure everybody knew I was still the boss, you know? I had to look mad and bad. Everybody, friends and enemies, had to fear me. And finally I wanted to make money every day. The more we brought in, the more I wanted. That was success. If we made half a million dollars one day, I wanted to make more the next. I stayed off dope myself because I never saw a gangster worth anything who was high.

  “And if I woke up next to a beautiful woman—hopefully a different one every day—I figured my life was full. That was it. If there was any thinking, it was business. How can we make more, get bigger, intimidate more people? That’s what it was all about.

  “When I got in the joint, there were sacrifices. No women. Money, but not the same amount. I was still running things, inside and out, and I was still boiling with rage, so nobody ever dared try a thing with me. But see, all it was was just the same kind of life in a different place.”

  Boone’s mind was reeling. “You never even had normal conversations then, not even with Villalobos?”

  “Exactly. There was no talking about the news or asking about somebody’s family. We didn’t care, and so we didn’t even know how to talk that way. I was suspicious of anybody who asked me anything. I tried to give the vibe that I didn’t want to be talked to, and believe me, everybody got the message.

  “I was violent, a killer, and everybody knew it. Life was about eating everything and everybody. It was about how much you could get and how little you had to give.”

  “How’d you get hooked up with Jazzy in the first place?”

  “It was when he was in charge, man.”

  “I know, but now he works for you.”

  “Yeah, well, he had his eye on me for a long time. My stories spread fast. I was ruthless. Once he came to one of my assignments just ’cause he had heard so much, you know?”

  “Assignments?”

  “I was enforcing back then. Some white dude who saw himself like a chef when he was only a short-order cook bought a little place on the edge of our turf and attracted a kind of a rich crowd. We didn’t know if he was making a lot of money, but it looked like he was, and so we wanted it. We offered him protection, and word was that the Outfit offered him garbage service.”

  “Actual garbage pickup service?”

  “Yeah! They’re big in that, but you gotta use one of their companies. He told ’em to forget it and they asked us to put the squeeze on him.”

  Boone squinted. “They even outsourced extortion.”

  “Absolutely. That’s where us young guys got a lot of our training. Anyway, Jazzy went over there with me and we sat at a table by the door for lunch. The waiters and waitresses kept staring at us. You can imagine we didn’t look like their regular customers. Finally we ordered big meals and then asked to talk to the chef. They told us he was too busy. I told the waiter, ‘You tell that blankety-blank that if he don’t come to my table, he’s gonna wish he had.’

&n
bsp; “So finally the guy comes storming out of the kitchen, ready to tell us off. I saw the fear in his eyes, but I gotta say, he didn’t back down. He leaned over the table and whispered that he appreciated our business but that he didn’t appreciate being ordered around. I got up and went straight back into the kitchen, Jazzy right behind me, giggling.

  “That owner followed us, telling us to get out of his kitchen and all that. I grabbed him and dragged him out the back door to the alley. I told him, ‘Man, you don’t know who you’re dealing with.’ I pointed to the garbage bin with the wrong company’s name on it and told him he would not be asked again to switch companies. And then I told him how much our protection was going to cost him.

  “He told me what I could do to myself. I pulled out my gat, man, and I pressed it into his forehead, right in the middle. I pushed him back against the wall and then pushed the barrel of that gun so hard, with both hands, that it gave him a bruise in the shape of a circle and drove the back of his head into the bricks. I said, ‘If you want to see another day, you’ll swear on your mother’s life you will do what I said.’

  “He nodded, and he was our best customer for years. But the thing was, Jazzy was so impressed, he couldn’t quit talking about it. He told everybody that I did it so cool and with so little emotion that he knew I would have dropped that guy right where he stood if he didn’t agree. And a few months later he saw me kill a dude, same scenario, different answer. I could tell from the look in Villalobos’s eyes that he would work for me someday. And now he does.”

  Boone shook his head. “Guys like you are why I’m a cop today.”

  “I hear you, man. I don’t like that story as much as I used to either.”

  “So back to your mom.”

  Pascual nodded. “That’s what I’m getting at. All of a sudden I’m starting to feel something for somebody else, and I don’t know what to do with it.” He dug out his wallet, carefully steering with the heel of his hand while pulling out a tightly folded sheet of paper. “Read this, man.”

  Boone took it and reached for the overhead light. “No, no,” Candelario said. “Use the glove box light. We don’t need suburbanites seeing me, do we?”

  Boone had to laugh, imagining another driver catching a glimpse of the massive bald head of the man behind the wheel. He opened the glove compartment and unfolded the sheet under the tiny light. “Oh, man!” he said. “What, are you kidding me? I know a few words, but I don’t read Spanish.”

  “Oh yeah, my bad. Well, I got it memorized anyway. Here’s the important part. She says, ‘Muchacho’—that means boy, and a lot of times she still calls me little boy—‘will you think about this? Imagine me, your madre, being terrorized or wounded or even killed by someone like you. I know you wouldn’t hurt your own mother, but you know you’ve hurt, or worse, someone else’s child.’

  “She went on to tell me to come to God for forgiveness and how to be saved and all that, but mostly she wanted me to start thinking about my life, something I’d never really done. Twenty-three, Boone. Twenty-three people before I ever got to Stateville. I had a reason for every one of them, and each one just added to my reputation. Now my mother, who had never hurt a soul in her life, was trying to get me to just think about it.

  “At first I got mad. I started thinking of all the things these people had done to deserve what I did to them. And then it hit me. I was only thinking of the ones I had personally murdered. How many more—hundreds, thousands, of murders—had I ordered? I couldn’t keep thinking about that because I could never count that high or remember them all anyway. And remembering how people had disrespected me or stole from me or underestimated me or threatened me, I could have written my mother a long letter about each one and why they deserved to die and why I would never apologize for doing it.

  “But what finally got to me was her wanting me to think about somebody doing something to her. Can you imagine what I thought about that?”

  “Someone else you’d be happy to kill.”

  “I got itchy just thinking about it. I decided how I would catch them, how I would make them feel, how I would make them beg, and what kind of weapon I’d use. Did I feel guilty about having killed other mothers’ sons? I didn’t, at least not then. These were bad dudes, as bad or worse than me. They chose their lifestyle; they knew the risks. So trying that angle with me—trying to make me feel guilty about robbing some family of their boy—that didn’t work.

  “What worked was makin’ me think about something happening to my own mother. I wasn’t the type to stay upset about stuff. If somebody ticked me off, I killed ’em or had ’em killed; that’s all. Now I was agitated thinking about something happening to my mother, and she wasn’t even in danger. It made a mess of me for weeks.”

  Pascual left the Edens and pulled almost immediately into a woodsy area that took them toward Lake Michigan. PC had assured Boone it would work for the fateful meeting, and Boone was surprised that an inner-city guy would be aware of such a spot. A few minutes later PC wheeled in between the lighthouse and the side building, doused the lights, and stayed in the car.

  Boone’s phone vibrated and he peeked to see a text from Jack Keller.

  In position. No tails. Safe.

  “Your guys happy?” Pascual said, smiling.

  “Yeah.”

  “Big ol’ Mexican’s not so stupid after all, hey?”

  “Believe me, PC, nobody ever mistook you for stupid. Now how did you get from obsessing over your mother to, you know . . . ?”

  “Coming all the way to Jesus? Took a while. But it never would have happened if she hadn’t just got me thinking different than I ever did before. Remember, she kept coming to Stateville to see me all the time too.”

  “Yeah, how’d that go?”

  “She could tell I wasn’t sleeping, and she asked me what was I doing that would cost me my sleep. I told her it was the noise. That was hard to argue with. No place louder’n a prison. But then she admitted it. She told me she was praying I wouldn’t sleep until I got right with God. That was it, man. That worked. I was miserable for days.”

  “But you were thinking differently.”

  “Was I ever. The longer I went exhausted like that, the more emotional I got. That was so new to me, I didn’t know what to do with it. I started saving all my mother’s letters, reading them over and over every day.”

  “And she had the gospel in every one.”

  Pascual nodded. “What she called the whole plan of salvation. I got the message, believe me. But first I had to see myself for who I was. You have no idea how hard that was. After about a month of misery, I was different, man. I was still playing the game, acting like the boss, scaring people, but inside I was a mess. I started praying for the first time. I was begging God to let me sleep, to give me a break. It was like he was telling me I already knew what would give me peace. And I did.

  “I started thinking about every bad thing I had ever done. We’re talking crime every day for years, and it was all coming back to me. Lies, theft, assault, murder. And I started feeling horrible. Some nights I would just lie there wondering if there had ever been a worse person in the history of the world. Finally I just listened to be sure my cellmate was snoring, and right after the guards came by for one of their routine checks, I rolled out of bed and knelt on the floor. I begged God to forgive me and change me, but even more than that, I . . .”

  Pascual had grown emotional and couldn’t continue. Boone felt overcome too. Keller texted him to be careful and not sit out in the open too long. “Show me this building, PC,” Boone said.

  The big man grabbed a flashlight from the glove compartment and led Boone to the darkened enclave, where even the outdoor lights were off. He unlocked the door and they stepped in. Pascual shined the light in the corners and along the back wall. “See what I like about this place? Only one way in and out.”

  “Totally out of code.”

  “Perfect for my meeting. I mean, I don’t expect anybody to want to escap
e, but if something goes wrong, you guys want to know where everybody’s heading.”

  “Yep. Our people will love this.”

  Candelario turned off the light and leaned back against the wall. Boone could barely make out his form. There was no heat in the place, and while they were out of the wind, they had been a lot warmer in the car. But Boone wanted to hear the end of this story, and if this was where Pascual was most comfortable, this was right where Boone wanted him.

  “Well,” he said, “I didn’t leave anything out. I don’t know if I used the right language or even if I do now, three years later, but I knew he was listening.”

  “Uh, PC, you said you asked God for more than just forgiving you and changing you.”

  Candelario paused a long time before answering, and Boone just waited him out.

  “You know, since that night, I’ve heard and read about other people going through this. Some of them have deep feelings. Other people don’t feel anything and kind of grow into it. I felt free, man. I knew something happened to me. I went from being the baddest dude in the place to being a guy who wished he could jump and sing and laugh and cry and tell everybody that Jesus was real, that he could forgive their sins. You got no idea, man, how hard it was to hold all that in.

  “And I told God I wanted to make up for everything—and I meant everything. I knew it would have to be a miracle because I didn’t know if I could live long enough to do that. I didn’t even know the names of most of the people I had murdered, so how do you make that right? Something told me God would have to give me some special idea, and he did.”

  “Making DiLoKi something positive.”

  “Yes, the Brotherhood. Because we would cut down on all the violence, and it gave me a way to look like I was still in charge without having anything to do with more killing. And then it would give me the chance to take down all the gang leadership in Chicago at once, even the Outfit.”

  “Now all you’ve got to do is keep playing the game and see if you can stay alive long enough to pull this off.”

  “You got that right.”

  “You’re lucky only the CPD figured out that somebody was firing blanks at your last big shoot-’em-up.”

 
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