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THE DRUG LORD Powered By Docstoc
					                      THE DRUG LORD
MICAH COMFORTI SAT IN his wicker chair with his long legs stretched
out, ankles crossed, looked out over Turtle Bay, watched a gull glide
against the cloudless sky as it searched for food, heard it cry.
Lounging bathers were catching the Florida noonday sun on the
white, warm sand.
A large, brown dog ran up the beach along the water's edge.
Three ships—giant hulks of steel—anchored in the mouth of the
bay, were well defined in the light haze.
Comforti noticed that the ship, Caribbean Storm, had left port during
the night.
He picked up a glossy eight by ten photograph from the wicker
stand by his chair, called to the forensic medicine specialist making iced
tea in the kitchen. "Diana—can you come in here a minute?"
When she was standing behind his chair looking over his shoulder,
he started pointing out specifics in the photo. "Notice the position
Charlotte Winslow's body is in at the time of death. Her face is upward,
yet she was shot twice in the back of the head," Comforti said. "Do you
find anything strange about that?"
"If the two shots killed her outright, I would find it strange she didn't
slump forward into a heap and stay that way," Diana said.
"But if the shots didn't kill her immediately, she may have rolled
over onto her back, right?"
"Right, or she may have been shot dead somewhere else then
taken to where the police found her," Diana suggested.
"That's the angle I want you to look into. If she was killed somewhere
else, there may be foreign particles on her body, maybe in her
"I'll get right on it, chief," she said, picking up two tan folders and a
small, black notepad, left through the sliding glass door that led to the
Comforti sat up straight, watched her red sports car ease up the
beach access road and hoped she'd be safe from the cartel. He knew
working with him put her at risk. He sat back, didn't relax. Since he'd
been assigned to Turtle Bay, he knew he might be killed at any moment
by some drug cartel thug. He knew that was the risk that went with his
being chief Narco agent for the Turtle Bay branch of the feds.
He'd tried for seven years to learn all the players in the rough Turtle
bay drug game, but so far he didn't think he knew many of them. He
knew about Cicero, but then even his sister in Cleveland probably knew
about Cicero. Cicero had been in the papers a lot. He'd been tried
twelve times with no convictions, but the street talk pointed to him as being
numero uno drug lord in the Turtle Bay area. Nevertheless, there was
always a twist to catching Cicero. His airplanes—just take them for example,
Comforti thought. The Tencen Company, a logistics business out
of Miami, had purchased thirty-seven aircraft—known to have hauled
drugs out of the Turtle Bay area. Cicero's cousin, Mandy Percilli, just
happened to own fifty-three percent of the stock in the company. Mandy
Percilli was chairman of the board, but Cicero couldn't be tied to the company.
Cicero was tried and got off without a hitch—no money had
changed hands. Comforti had worked hard getting enough on Cicero to
get him arrested that time, but Comforti knew Cicero would never forget it
and would no doubt try to return the favor someday. He knew Cicero
must be gunning for him even at the moment.
The phone rang, brought Comforti out of his contemplation. He
picked up the receiver. "Comforti—"
Comforti immediately recognized the voice on the other end even
before Grant said his name.
"Grant! Come up the beach highway about forty miles—you can't
miss us. There's someone up here you'll want to see."
"I'll be there in twenty minutes!" He hung up the phone, straightened
his tie, put on his suede leather jacket, left the bungalow, didn't
loose any time driving his yellow sedan up the beach highway.
When he got there, there were six men standing in a circle near
the highway on a rocky part of the beach. As Comforti walked up to
them, he saw they were looking down at a man's body.
"Comforti—glad you could make it," Grant said. Grant was a
short, fat, elderly man with a Santa Claus stomach. "You all know Chief
Comforti of Fed-Narco, right?"
The men standing around the body, from various law enforcement
agencies, nodded.
Comforti casually joined the circle.
They all looked down at the corpse.
Comforti didn't have to ask what the man had died of, the corpse
had been rolled onto its side. Comforti could see the man had been shot
twice in the back of the head. "Charlotte Winslow was shot twice in the
back of the head. I just finished looking at her photos," Comforti said. "I
want a ballistics match made between the bullets that killed Winslow and
the ones that killed this man."
"There's a problem with that, Chief," Grant said.
"What's the problem?"
The lids under Grants gray eyes drooped like hammocks as he
looked up at Comforti. "Both bullets that hit the Winslow woman and both
of those that hit Benitini here—went right on through their bodies. We
haven't found any of the bullets."
Comforti's piercing brown eyes zeroed in on Grant's. "What did
you just say this man's name was?"
Grant rechecked the name in his notebook. "Benitini. Lucio Benitini.
They called him Bugs."
Comforti stroked his long, reddish-brown beard. "I've heard that
name—but I don't connect it with anything at the moment. Wait! Yes I
do! Bugs Benitini—. There was a letter from a Bugs Benitini in Charlotte
Winslow's purse when they found her body. Have your boys and girls
found any fingerprints on that letter yet?"
Grant slipped his notebook into his shirt pocket. "Could be—
Winslow's stuff is being checked for prints as we speak."
Comforti looked out over the ocean. "Good! If you get some info,
pass it on to the computer boys. Let's see if we can identify any as belonging
to Benitini."
Comforti reached down, picked up a seashell. "Starfish!"
Grant gave him a puzzled look. "What?"
"Nothing. I was just wondering what killed this starfish. Comforti
said, tossing the shell back onto the beach.
Grant smiled. "Maybe it died of old age."
Comforti looked back toward the little town that lay out in the sun
like a sultry mistress. "Around Turtle Bay? I doubt it! Nothing and nobody
gets to live that long around here!"
Grant walked over to his car, opened the driver's door. "Maybe
you're right. By the way—the street scuttlebutt has it that Bugs Benitini
was one of Cicero's boys."
Comforti walked over to Grant. "Cicero's? That's interesting. I
wonder how Charlotte Winslow fits into all this."
"You mean because she had the letter in her purse with Bug's
name on it?"
Comforti had a lot to think about as he drove back to town. He knew that
tons of drugs were still coming up from South America to Turtle Bay and
were being smuggled out again to the Great American Market. He knew
the drug cartel wouldn't hang around just for the view—but how were they
getting their shipments in and out without any interceptions? Shipments?
Ships? Shipping? No way—Comforti had his people examine the ships
day and night. No suspicious cargo had ever been found. However, no
aircraft had been found lately carrying drugs, either. Why had one of
Cicero's boys turned up on the beach with an air-conditioned head? Why
did Charlotte Winslow's purse have a letter from Bugs Benitini to a Linda
Bodeen in it? Who was Linda Bodeen, anyway? Where was she? He
needed to talk to her. He needed to find her. He had the address on the
letter. He'd start there. Two dead bodies who'd known each other, he
thought. The letter had tied Winslow and Benitini to the drug cartel. Heat
had been turned on by the cartel. There were two corpses to prove it, but
why? He wouldn't be surprised if it turned out they were both shot with
the same gun—but whose? Cicero was probably behind both murders,
but proving it was another thing.
Comforti pulled his car up in front of Linda Bodeen's address on Chicago
Lane that he'd gotten from the letter in Charlotte Winslow's purse. He got
out, went to the door of a plush, middle-class house, pressed the buzzer.
An elderly, gray-haired, print dressed lady came to the door.
"Does Linda Bodeen live here?"
"Let me see," she said—slammed the door in his face.
Comforti waited on the stoop.
A few minutes passed then a younger, blonde lady with a gold
front tooth came to the door. "I'm Micah Comforti with Fed-Narco." He
showed her his credentials. "May I ask you a few questions?"
"I'm always happy to cooperate with the law. Please come in."
She opened the door wider so he could enter.
He went in, pulled the door closed behind them.
She gestured for him to sit on the sofa. She sat down in a chair
near the end of the sofa. "What can I do for you, Mr. Comforti?"
"Was that your mother who answered the door?"
"Yes. Please forgive her—you never know who's on your stoop
these days."
"Oh—I didn't mean to imply she did anything wrong. I ask too
many questions sometimes," Comforti said apologetically. "Do you know
Bugs Benitini?"
"She instantly diverted her eyes to the floor. It was a long time
before she answered. Finally, she said, "Yes."
"Have you known him long?"
"We met at his father's funeral in Minnesota three years ago. One
thing led to another. I moved here and started a fur business. He bought
a fur from me. He paid ten thousand for it. Nice sable."
"Did he say who it was for?"
"He didn't have to say. He asked me to try it on. I did. It was a
perfect fit, just as if he had some inside information, you know. He asked
me if I'd accept it as a present from him. I laughed and asked him what
the occasion was. He looked serious, but never did say. We were married
the following Sunday."
"Have you seen him lately?"
"He didn't come home last night."
"I'm afraid I have some bad news for you—he's been murdered."
"Murdered!" she cried, obviously shaken. She searched Comforti's
eyes for a different answer. There was none. Her eyes filled. She
reached a tissue from the glass coffee table in front of them, wiped her
eyes. She'd been cheerful until he'd told her, then her face became
etched with dark lines of sadness.
"I'm very sorry—I didn't know."
"That's all right. There's no way you could have."
"Why not?" Comforti asked, not really wanting to ask, but needing
an answer.
"Our marriage was a secret. He didn't want anyone to know about
us. I think he was trying to protect me. I'm telling you because you're legal."
"What did he do for a living?"
"He was a salesman. He never told me what he sold. I assumed
it was insurance. He carried a briefcase whenever he left the house."
"Did he have people come to the house?"
Having somewhat regained her composure, Linda Bodeen sat
back in her chair, "Marty."
"Marty was the only one?"
"Yes, Marty. I don't know his last name."
"Do you know where I can find Marty?"
"No, I have no idea. Bugs never took me to Marty's place."
"Again, I'm really sorry. I hate to ask you questions at a time like
this," Comforti said, getting to his feet.
"I'm sorry, too. I was crazy about the little man," she said as she
followed Comforti to the door.
Comforti sat in his car and thought a moment before he drove off.
Bugs Benitini's wife doesn't know he was in the drug cartel. I believe her.
No wonder I can’t find out who's in it, they don't even tell their wives.
Comforti found the iced tea Diana had left in the fridge, poured himself a
tall, frosty glass, took it to his wicker chair out on the patio, sat down. He
looked out over the bay water, looked for the dark dot he'd seen before
and had thought it must be a bird or the head of an otter. He'd seen it
pop up through the water's surface the night before when the Caribbean
Storm was in port. It apparently liked to hang around the Caribbean
Storm. The moon had been full and he'd watched it in the moon's reflection.
It had bobbed up, stayed for at least a minute then disappeared
back under the water. He hoped it was an otter. He liked to photograph
the wildlife of the Bay and the otter was a favorite subject of his, as could
be deduced from the collection of otter photos hanging on the walls of the
bungalow. Whatever it was, he'd watched it for several months. It played
favorites—always picked a ship and seemed to play in the water near that
ship—until the ship left port. It would never go and seem to play by another
ship until the ship it had first selected had shipped out of port. Comforti
found that to be odd, assuming it was an otter, the reason it would
hang around a ship would be because the ship discharged garbage. Sea
creatures would eat the garbage. The otter would eat the sea creatures.
If it were a bird, it would eat the garbage first hand. Nevertheless,
whether it was a bird or an otter, it shouldn't matter which ship it selected.
It obviously did matter. Curious. Another thing was, so far, he'd never
seen it in the daytime. He finally decided he'd exhausted all his knowledge
of birds and sea otters that applied to the scenario. I'll need an infrared
camera if I'm to snap a photo of this one, he thought.
He called Grant, had an infrared camera sent over with infrared
lights, the works.
That night, the moon was still full and the otter-bird or what ever it was
had returned. This time it had taken up with the ship, Peninsula. Comforti
zeroed the camera in on it. When he looked through the lens and got
the sight completely focused in—he almost fell out of his chair. "A periscope—!"
he cried aloud, told himself to shut up. Not an otter—not a
bird—it's a goddamn periscope!
He watched, waited then panned the water with the camera.
About fifty feet further on, toward the bow of the ship, he saw something
bob to the top of the water, focused the camera in on it. "A bail of drugs,"
he whispered to himself. It has to be a goddamn bail of drugs! They're
blowing drugs out of the torpedo tubes during the cover of night and then
picking them up in small boats. They just hang around the ships to mask
their operations.
Comforti quickly called Grant—told him what he thought.
The phone rang. It was Diana. She'd found foreign particles on both victims—
the same kind on each—mattress dust and dirt in their hair. All four
bullets had been found in the alley behind the mattress factory. Blood in
the soil matched that of the victims and soil from the hair matched soil
from the alley. Ballistics had matched up the bullets. They were all from
the same gun. Whose gun? The gun owner was a man called Marty,
Grant had told Diana. They'd matched the gun with one from a previous
shooting incident. The street had it that Marty was Cicero's right-hand
man. Marty had confessed to killing Charlotte Winslow, therefore she
couldn't put the finger on the cartel after Bugs Benitini got his. Marty had
killed Benitini to take over Benitini's share of the action. It was a neat
package. Comforti liked it. Yes—now to nail Cicero for drug trafficking!
He didn't have to wait long. Grant called before midnight, said they'd
picked up Cicero on a dock thirty miles on down the beach. He was
watching his boys load bails of drugs—that had been flown in—onto a
submarine. Let's see Cicero get out of this one, Comforti thought, taking
another sip of iced tea.
"You shouldn't drink iced tea at night," Diana cautioned. "It'll keep
you awake."
"Sit down here and tell me again about the particles you found,"
Comforti said, a flirtatious glint in his eye. "What do you recommend I
drink at night?"
"A Martini," she said, handing him one.


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