Fear of Fernando
Fernando Hernandez was seething. Never in his adult life had anyone dared attack him. Everyone around him knew the consequences of challenging el Patron, as he liked to be called. Fernando hated his first name.
Usually, challenging el Patron ended in a slow, painful and, often, public death.
Fernando recalled the early days as he built his empire. Necklacing was one of his favorite methods for disposing of those who challenged him. Necklacing involved forcing a tire down over the arms and torso of an individual, filling it with gasoline and lighting it on fire. Occasionally, the victim would run, if their ankles were not secured. Typically, it took them about twenty minutes to die, screaming and writhing.
Fernando chuckled as he remembered how one of his victims, before Fernando learned to secure his victims’ ankles, started a fire that burned nearly 200 acres of farmland. The local fire department had arrived to put out the fire only to find – to their horror – a Necklaced, faceless man in the middle of the field. As far as Fernando knew, the illegal Mexican had never been identified and Fernando himself had certainly never come under suspicion.
Typically, Fernando forced at least a dozen of his underlings to witness a Necklacing. It was like when the Conquistadors had placed natives’ heads on pikes. It served as a warning. Fernando was proud of his Spanish heritage and held nothing but disdain for Mexicans of native Indian descent. They were a lower class in his opinion and good for nothing more than menial tasks.
As Fernando returned to his sprawling home in the warmth of his Cadillac Escalade his seething turned to fretting. Who would dare attack his armory?
Fernando had taken the armory by force shortly after the idiots in the U.S. government ran their country into the ground. Fernando did not think of the U.S. as his home. It allowed him a degree of emotional detachment that frequently proved useful in his line of business.
Many of the members of the National Guard troop had already deserted the unit to care for their own families. Fernando’s son, Enrique, led the attack against the remaining troops. Although Enrique had been one of them for several years, he was more than happy to kill them in cold blood for the opportunity to manage the resources of the units for his father.
Now, Enrique and his brothers were dead. They had been blown to bits along with the armory. Fernando was sure of it. He knew that Enrique had been involved in preparing for the attack on the gringos that had killed Marta, Fernando’s sister. Enrique’s brothers were helping him.
For many years, Fernando had been embarrassed by Enrique. Enrique had been lazy, fat, stupid and pretty much worthless. Until recently. Enrique had been skimming resources from his National Guard unit to the benefit of Fernando’s drug operation. He had successfully overthrown his National Guard comrades and, with the help of his distant cousin, Ariela, done an excellent job of managing things. Until this.
Ariela. Although Fernando hated to admit it, the loss of Ariela pained him more than the loss of his own sons. Ariela had been beautiful, spirited, smart, strong and talented. She was everything any man could hope for … in a son.
A pang of guilt washed over Fernando. To place Ariela ahead of his own sons was to dishonor the memory of the boys.
Still … in reality, Ariela was a far greater loss.
Fernando let loose with a string of vulgarities in a rare display of emotion. He regretted it immediately as he met his driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. His driver was frightened. Not because he feared Fernando in his anger, but because he feared anything that could cause el Patron to lose control of his emotions.
Emilio had worked for el Patron for nearly twelve years. In that time, he had only seen him lose control twice before. Those were very bad times, indeed. Emilio knew that bad things were about to happen again.
Emilio pulled the big black SUV into the courtyard of Fernando’s home and slowed to a stop. Fernando was out of the door before Emilio could open it for him.
Fernando’s mind raced.
Who would attack him? The gringos from the east? Certainly not. If not them, then who else? No one was fighting for drug territory any more.
Were there surviving National Guard members looking to avenge the deaths of their brothers in arms? Unlikely. In Fernando’s mind, they were cowards or they would not have gone home to be with the women and children.
In the privacy of his office, Fernando once again let loose with a string of curses.
He needed information but his means of communication had been destroyed along with the armory. There were still outposts throughout the area but the only way to get through to them was to send messengers … or carrier pigeons. Fernando snorted at the idea. In his childhood he had raced pigeons. Of course, his birds almost always won. He had the finest stock and the best trainers.
What did he have now? Nothing.
Fernando had never had to start from nothing before. He had inherited his empire from his father. His father had taught him to be tough and ruthless, but he hadn’t taught Fernando how to start with nothing and build it into something.
Fernando was lost … out of his element. The death of his sons. The death of Ariela. The death of most of his troops. The destruction of the armory. It was all too much.
Fernando put his head in his hands and began to weep.
“Patron,” the voice came from the doorway to Fernando’s office – a soft, female voice.
Before he looked up, Fernando’s face contorted. Who would dare enter his office uninvited?
“Tio, it’s me, Ariela,” she moved lithely to her uncle’s side and touched his shoulder.
Fernando looked up into her eyes, his face haggard with worry and stained with tears.
Ariela knelt next to Fernando.
“I escaped,” she whispered.
She was so close that Fernando could feel her breath on his ear. It was like a warm wind in winter time. Refreshing. Invigorating. His beautiful Ariela was alive!