Toro Gonzalez stood at the end of the temporary dirt runway and watched the twin-engine Cessna 421 slowly circle like a large white eagle descending in pursuit of prey. At the last moment it straightened out and lightly touched down on rich Colombian soil. As it taxied down the dirt strip its spinning propellers began lifting huge amounts of dust and sent it twisting high into the distance reminiscent of a miniature sirocco.
Upon confirming the identity of the aircraft he holstered his Glock nine- millimeter and relaxed. His tired gaze followed the small plane as it taxied half way down the dusty strip, made a right turn and stopped next to a large canopy made from camouflage netting. Heat waves rose from the ground distorting the air around the plane. It had the effect of making the aircraft appear to bend and dance.
Under the protection of the net, sat stacked bricks of processed coca neatly wrapped in brown plastic. Next to them there were also bricks of heroin wrapped likewise in green plastic, a recent addition to the mix. The lot was rounded out by approximately five hundred pounds of tightly packed top grade marijuana buds. Each of the brown plastic covered bricks constituted four pounds of pure cocaine of which some would soon be further refined into crack upon its arrival in Miami.
Of all illegal drug users in North America, crack-heads are considered the lowest of the low by society because they voraciously smoke cocaine in rock form. This is due to its highly addictive mind-bending properties and lower price; hence more bang for the buck as it were.
The down side for the public being that crack addicts usually have no jobs or source of income to pay for their insidious habit other than to burglarize some tax payer’s house. Although a few crack freaks have been known to engage in other illicit, albeit lucrative activity like periodically breaking a wine bottle over an old lady’s head in order to snatch her Social Security money.
On the other hand, the upscale crowd such as movie stars and musicians preferred to snort the coca power using a silver coke spoon or a rolled hundred-dollar bill. Yes indeed, powder is less addictive and real cool; that is until the time comes when the addiction finally does kick in and a bleeding nose becomes the order of the day.
Twenty yards to the right of the bricks sat makeshift stoves, barrels, pots and other paraphernalia used in boiling down the coca plants. A couple of Juan Valdez looking peasant coca workers stood idly by, watching the plane as the engines shut down bringing the props to a stop. The pilot opened a door and exited the white and gray painted Cessna. The short balding aviator who vaguely resembled Danny Devito stood on the wing looking around for a moment as if getting his bearings then he hopped to the ground. He stretched his arms after the long ride then ambled over toward the stacked bricks of narcotics and the shady protection of the netting. The heat and humidity were almost unbearable. The peasants: seven women and six men, having their curiosity satisfied went about the business of tossing wood onto the fires beneath the cauldrons of hot opaque liquid or other tasks in which they were involved.
Toro, recognizing the pilot as Buddy Norton, smiled and started toward the plane at a fairly brisk pace. However, the oppressive Colombian sun made running out of the question. As Toro closed the distance he called out, “Norton . . . Norton, que pasa mi amigo?” Switching to English he added, “How was your trip down?”
Norton, upon hearing Toro’s voice, turned and waved his right hand in a gesture of recognition. He took a couple of steps toward Toro as he spoke in his less than manly falsetto, “Toro, it’s good to see you my old cohort in crime.” Smiling, Norton continued, “Hombre, your hair gets grayer every time I see you. Damn, Toro, and speaking of that, I haven’t seen you since we worked together in Mitu. What’s that been, a year or two?”
“Si. Two years,” Toro replied with a short laugh.
“How much of the coca is ready?” Without waiting for an answer to any of his questions Norton got to the heart of the matter. “The DC-3 is down with engine problems so I had to fly the smaller plane as you can see. I removed the rear seats so that means between the baggage compartment and seat area we can handle about six or seven hundred pounds.”
Toro screwed up his face in thought for a moment then replied, “Well we have about thirty-eight hundred pounds bundled up and probably another four or five hundred in the pots not to mention the smack and weed. I sure wish you had brought the bigger plane. We could have put everything on it. And by the way, Norton you sure are a sight for sore eyes.”
Norton hesitated in thought for a moment before replying. “Yeah, Toro, you too, buddy. I agree about the DC-3. El Sorra won’t be happy with this broken plane business. It’s going to put us short and my Cayman Islands account takes a hit when that happens.”
“Si and I don’t like what happens when El Sorra is unhappy; life gets malo.” With a shrug Toro added, “You know Sorra got to be in charge of the Cali Cartel real fast because of his mean streak and no-bullshit, serious attitude – not to mention he was the main organizer almost from the beginning.”
Norton studied the surrounding vast lime and olive green jungle-like landscape for a brief moment and then asked, “Toro, how did El Sorra come by that nickname? It means, ‘The Fox’ and that sure as hell is not his real name.”
Toro’s craggy old weather beaten brown face cracked into a knowing little smile exposing a row of uniformly yellow teeth, save for the missing upper right incisor. He reached up and pushed his worn straw hat slightly back off his forehead, an unconscious thing he did when he was getting ready to tell a story he liked well enough to repeat over and over.
“Well,” Toro began, “as you probably know, his real name is Pablo Escobar. A few years back when he first got into the business, people realized that Pablo was different; a real gutsy bastard. Oh, by the way, you have to understand that the business was very small then. It was El Sorra that made the Cali Cartel what it is today. Well as I was saying, it was because of the gift of toughness given to him by Dios, that he was trusted to carry out assignments denied to others. One such errand assigned to him by a coca boss was to take a fair size smack shipment to a location near the airport in Buenaventura. El Sorra was almost to the location when the engine in his old Ford pick-up truck quit. Determined to carry out his assignment, he hung his AK-47 over his shoulder using the sling in order to free both hands to carry the duffle bag full of dope. What El Sorra didn’t know was that the Colombian police had found out about the shipment and staked out the …