Jefferson County, Texas
“This better work, Gringo,” Manny Alvarez growled as he looked at his slim, wiry companion, Darrel, a fellow inmate in FCC Beaumont. After he had jabbed the other man in the ribs to punctuate his demand, Manny looked around him and tried not to seem out of place.
Although they had found a corner of the prison that did not have cameras or the guards watching over it, the cold concrete walls of the prison still towered over them, reminding both men of the stark reality of their bleak situation. Some would view their situation as hopeless, and when he first arrived there, he felt the same, but over time, he had made a realization.
Manny had never gotten used to life in federal prison, the rules and regulations had often gotten under his skin, but despite what others had deemed his mental illnesses, he had always considered himself to be an intelligent man. To pull off the cover-ups, the complexity of the murders, and the drug running that he did, for as long as he did, he had to be. Like a chameleon, Manny knew to survive amongst the inmates and prison guards that he had to change his way of thinking on a case by case basis. With that in mind, he decided to take the Federal Prosecutor’s deal in exchange for his life.
With his change in attitude about cooperation with the authorities came certain amenities: a comfortable bed, a pair of high-end sneakers, and rich foods. He did not have to worry about the jury sentencing him to death for the murder of the Senator, sex trafficking, and the kidnappings that he had committed in his time out of prison, and over time, he had gained the trust of a few of the guards.
It is really no different than when I worked my way through the ranks of the cartel, Manny thought. He was a master at manipulating his superiors. They were a means to an end. Then he would be calling the shots again. Right after he took care of a little business from his past, he thought.
“It’ll work, Manny,” Darrel assured in a less than convincing tone, a tone that in the past Manny would have had him killed or at least beaten for, but in his experience, men like Darrel rarely voiced their uncertainness in Manny’s presence. “They let me take the truck out to the work crew before.”
Manny narrowed his brow at him, his thick eyebrows pinching together as the bridge of his nose wrinkled. Although he loved how addicted the citizens could be, he hated the United States, and after his business, he could not wait to be back on Mexican soil. At the very least, Manny wouldn’t have to be around weasels like Darrel for much longer. If he were, he would do something about it.
The other man wiped his hand across his forehead and quickly added, “More then once. Jensen is at the gate today. He’s already gotten his payment, so he’s going to pretend we aren’t there. Other than that, if you act like you’re supposed to be there, no one will question it. Trust me, man.”
Manny trusted no one. That was why he was alive. It was also why Manny turned on the cartel. Being that he trusted no one, he was also loyal to no one other than himself. His own survival trumped everything, and his every action was with his own interests in mind and for his own benefits alone. Once he was in Mexico, he would never be able to return to the cartel, and that was fine by him. He was still alive, and he intended to stay that way.
That is all that matters, he thought. He would trade his life for every man that he once was in charge of, and many men that were lackeys and lieutenants of the Diablo de la Muerte cartel were in prison or sitting on death row as a result of his testimony.
“If it doesn’t,” Manny threatened, the snarl returning to his voice, “I will gut you like a pig, do you hear me?”
Darrel’s face whitened. Wrinkles appeared on the old man’s forehead. Manny thought that he would cry at that moment, and he took pleasure in the fact that he could still strike fear in someone that was obviously beneath him.
“Then,” he added as he smiled at the man, “the people I know on the outside who are protecting your daughter right now will do the same to her, after they have a little fun.”
He shook his head, strands of his ebony hair brushing against the top of his ear. “I mean it, gringo. I’m in here for life anyway. They can’t do much more.”
“Calm down, man,” Darrel pleaded, his voice cracking with emotion, “I’m doing what you want. Leave my daughter out of it, please.”
As they began to walk to the garage, Darrel hissed, “Shh!”
Manny hated being hushed so abruptly. He was used to having people like Darrel listen to him as they looked up to him and expected him to lead. This man would not have lasted beneath Manny’s leadership.
I’ll probably have to kill him at some point, Manny thought. Such a slight couldn’t go unpunished, and Darrel would probably not be able to carry his weight on the outside.
Through the time that he knew him, Darrel seemed to be weak. In fact, when he had approached him in the Yard with his escape plan, Manny had almost thought it was a setup. After Darrel had asked him for money, Manny had carefully probed the old American with questions over the weeks, gathering information that he deemed valuable. He would not be caught like a rat in a trap. Never again!
Although he was behind prison bars, the Mexican drug lord was not one to be trifled with. While he had burned his bridges with the cartel, the man still had members that were loyal to him, but he had learned the hard way that he could not trust anyone in his organization or outside of it. Darrel could have been trying to get information out of him, so he could have a better life in the federal pen, or at least, be moved to FCI Beaumont, the low-security facility of the complex. Imagine Manny’s surprise when he and Darrel were placed there.
With each step, correctional officers’ eyes were upon them, staring intently at them and ultimately judging them. Several of the guards held their rifles loosely in their hands.
He forced himself to look ahead of him and the hard glint in his eyes faded. They didn’t need to draw suspicion to themselves even before they reached the workplace.
Biting down on the inside corner of his mouth, Manny noticed the tangy metallic hint of blood spreading over his lips. If Manny wanted to get out of there, he needed to act normal and ground himself.
Soon, he thought, I won’t have to worry about being scrutinized. While he would be on the run as he took care of the business that had been haunting him for four years and he would be forced to lay low, Manny wouldn’t be told what to do. No one would dictate when he would eat, how many hours he could sleep, or if he could take a piss. How he looked forward to that day.
“We’re here,” Darrel spoke up, breaking Manny’s thoughts.
They waited for the large metallic door to be opened. Manny clasped his hands together and tried to calm his racing thoughts. As they waited, a tightness gripped his chest.
The door opened, and as they strolled into the garage, Officer Jensen gave them a nod. He motioned toward a work truck. He offered, “Take that one.”
Manny looked at the white pickup with a decal of the prison’s name on the door. They would have to ditch it as soon as possible. Once word had spread of their escape, he could imagine the manhunt that would commence.
They wouldn’t want Darrel so much, but they would call out the Marshals to apprehend me. After all, Manny knew that he was one of the more valuable prisoners housed there. If they were still funneling drugs through Laredo, he was one of the only ones that could provide state’s evidence to stop them.
“The crew is waiting out on Route 96,” Jensen continued, “You can’t miss ‘em.”
“You got it,” Darrel answered, and they trotted to the vehicle.
Without another word from either of them, Manny opened the door and climbed in. He reached for the seatbelt, brought it across his broad shoulder, barrel chest, and paunchy stomach, and slid the buckle into the latch.
As they pulled out of the garage, Manny started to think of everything that had happened to get him to that point. If it were not for his lover and her willingness to smuggle in cash needed to pay Jensen off, Manny might have still been sitting in his plush cell, and that would have been unacceptable.
They moved slowly through the complex, the landscape beyond the barbed wire fence surrounding the prison passed by them as they rolled alone, and they soon stopped in front of a double gate.
The first gate opened, and Darrel pulled forward. The gate closed behind him as a guard peered into the cab. His eyes passed suspiciously over Manny.
“Jensen told us to take the truck over to the crew on Route 96,” Darrel said, his tone confident.
He’s useful, after all, he thought.
Yet, the guard wouldn’t stop looking at Manny. His eyes hardened, and his thin lips drew downward in a frown. “That so? We’ll see.”
The corrections officer picked up his walkie that was hooked to his wide, ebony leather belt, and after fiddling with the buttons, he spoke into it. His gaze never left the two in the truck.
Manny couldn’t hear the conversation, but he could guess who he was talking to. The man was verifying with Jensen. It made sense, and although he had paid Jensen off, it didn’t keep an empty feeling from spreading into the pit of his stomach.
His gut kept rolling. Even though they were not out of Beaumont, Manny had come too far for their plan to fail now. He didn’t know what he would do if they were denied access to the second gate. His mind filtered through various scenarios, but deep within him, Manny knew that he could do nothing. While it may have seemed that this was the only guard at the entrance to the prison, there had to be more. Their rifles were trained on their pickup. Manny just knew it.
He tried to give the other man a polite nod, plastering a small smile on his face, signaling that he belonged there.
As the guard finished his conversation, the suspicion left his face. He turned off his walkie, placed it on his belt, and he shouted as he waved them through, “All’s clear!”
The second gate opened, sliding against the perimeter barbed wire fence, the truck jerked over the gravel entrance, and they were well on the way to freedom. He could barely contain his excitement, but the lurking rage that always simmered since those events that had resulted in his arrest all those years ago bubbled over.
Manuel “Crazy Manny” Alvarez was out of prison. He looked out the side window as he watched the trees and greenery pass them by. Dark thoughts overtook his mind.
He would make his way down to Mexico, disappear across the border, and rebuild his contacts within the drug trade before doing away with the leaders of his old cartel and taking his place. Manny was sure that he could straighten out his crime syndicate once more. After all, the people at the top were much more inept than anyone he had met before.
Yet, before all of that, there was still the business that he had to see to first. The man that had betrayed his organization in the first place- the scum that had played at being a member of the cartel when he was actually an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration—had to pay, and he would pay dearly.
That cabrÓn will watch as his bitch is hurt and killed before taking a bullet to the brain. Manny had long since planned it out, knowing the details of how he was going to do it as well as he knew his body needed oxygen to breath. He smiled to himself, taking solace in his soon-to-be-real fantasy.