The best way for Carlos to calm his nerves is through cooking. Cutting vegetables, measuring spices, and grilling pieces of meat soothe him. He tossed the guajillo, the ancho and chipotle peppers into a saucepan, and after a few minutes of stirring, the mixture perfumed the small room. The installations looked nothing like the super fancy kitchen he had at home, but the hotplate did the trick.
He held a cigarillo between his lips, closing his left eye so the smoke wouldn’t sting it. He put the peppers in the blender and added some chicken broth, which he had made himself. Turning to his lieutenant, he puffed on the cigarillo, paused and tossed the butt into the fireplace.
“Miguel, I’m not sure I understood everything. Tell me again how we got this information?”
“It’s the mole. He managed to infiltrate their organization. I don’t have all the details of his operation, but he found out the time and date of the bust then forwarded the information to me through the cabaret singer.”
“Hmm,'' muttered the Capo, slowly returning to his pots.
He toasted four pieces of bread and some tortilla strips in a pan, until they were lightly browned, then transferred them to the blender along with the chicken broth and the chili peppers. Carlos breathed deeply, turned his head right and left, rolled his shoulders and lowered his head. Something was wrong with the whole story, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.
“So, explain to me how come I’m in this big mess. Huh? Where is this mole?“
“He’s temporarily... lost. But I put three of our best halcones on his trail. They will find him. Tomorrow morning, or by tomorrow afternoon, we should have tracked him down”
“We should?” repeated Carlos, his voice too calm.
“We’ll have him,” corrected Miguel.
He cooked tomatoes and tomatillos in a pan until they were tender and blackened. The black marks on the red tomatoes reminded him of bullet holes in a soft stomach. The calming effect of cooking was starting to hold. Carlos kept silent for a long time. Miguel, used to the capo’s silences, ignored it.
He sets the table, puts the revolver back in the holster, then walks to the front door.
“ Where are you going?”
“I need a piss”.
“We have indoor plumbing, you know.”
“I know. I need fresh air.”
He relieved his full bladder at the foot of the only tree around. Before heading back inside, he briefly surveyed the surroundings but was almost certain no one knew where they were hiding. Better safe than sorry, the lieutenant told himself.
Miguel took a beer from the cooler and offered one to Carlos, who refused. He sat down in a leather chair and uncapped the bottle. He drank the beer with long swallows, the heat had made him thirsty.
“What about Roberto? Why isn’t he here?”
“Roberto? He’s at the clinic”
“At the clinic? What is he doing at a clinic? And which clinic?“ barked Carlos, frowning.
“It’s the mole. He’s got to have it taken out, it’s cancerous. Roberto was worried … the growth was weird and getting bigger. Good thing too he went to see the doctor cause when he looked at his skin, he found three more moles that looked abnormal...”
“Hey, I don’t want to know his entire medical history! Only, I don’t think he chose the right time to have his fucking moles removed! Get me some tequila, there must be a bottle in this damn dump!”
Carlos lit another cigarillo, muttering to himself. He removed the cinnamon sticks from the pan, added the onion mixed to the blender along with the chili and tomato mixture then blended it until smooth. Carlos wondered if he was irrational. All these “worst-case scenario” thoughts were driving him crazy. More than once this cycle of “what ifs.” had complicated his life. He didn’t want to make the same mistakes again.
The capo took the glass and the bottle of tequila that Miguel handed him. He slouched into the rocking chair, which creaked under his weight. He was getting too old for this lifestyle. If it’s not a bullet, it’s a heart attack that will kill him. After the third glass, Carlos struggled out of the chair and went back to his hotplate.
He poured the mashed chili into a large saucepan and mixed it with the chocolate, chicken broth, sugar and salt. While the mix simmered, he grilled the chicken thighs.
“So what’s the plan once the men come back with this mole?”
“The guys will convince him to talk, you question him then I shoot him.”
”Yeah, thank you, dumbass! I knew that. But after?”
“After? Well, we shoot everyone who’s in on the plot, that’s all.”
“That’s all,” Carlos mocked him. “You moron “
He put two chicken thighs on each plate and covered it with sauce. He added refried beans to the plates, and Miguel brought the basket of tortillas. Without saying a word, the two men took their places at the table.
“Open a bottle of wine for us, Miguel. Just because we’re hiding in a slum it doesn’t mean we have to live like savages, right?” sneered Carlos.
The men ate quietly, chatting about everything and nothing. All these rumours of conspiracies and betrayals weighed heavily on Carlos’ mind. He tried briefly to add up the pieces of the confusing puzzle but he was too exhausted, he needed a short break. Before going to war.
“Ah! This is delicious! Admit that I outdid myself this time, although I only had rudimentary kitchen tools.”
Miguel took a bite and groaned in satisfaction.
“Delicious, Boss,” smirked the lieutenant.
Then he fired three shots in the capo’s big stomach.
“Miguel! Why? “ cried Carlos, looking in disbelief at his bloody hands, holding them over his wounds. With every breath, a squirt of blood poured out.
“Miguel! Why? ” Miguel mimicked the old man.
“It’s the mole,” said Miguel, licking his fingers. “ It lacks an essential ingredient, Boss. Leadership. You’ve said it often, Carlos, you’re too old to lead the cartel. It’s time for you to lie down and let the young ones take over.”
Then he shot the Capo in the head.