My Family, Mi Familia

Det Bella Vega’s POV:
(Some sensitive subject matter, graphic language, sexual situations, no nudity)

“Moynihan, did you get anything back from forensics?” Erik and I had been reviewing the evidence seized from Meech’s apartment over the last couple of days. Most of what was recovered by the team had been useless. “Uh, yeah. There was nothing on those phones we recovered. I didn’t suspect there would be.” He whizzed around in his chair; slamming down a stack of folders. “It’s bullshit, Bella. If we had gotten the warrant earlier, maybe we would’ve found something to tie McQueen to the Caribbean importers or Hector Noriega and by extension his brother and Lupita.”

It was getting late in the afternoon, and I was gearing up for another twelve-hour workday. The tension was rising within our department because we were feeling the heat. Ever since cartel boss DM Sanders was killed, there’s been uprisings from smaller factions and the other major heads trying to take over. San Myshuno was wide open, whether or not McQueen called himself the boss.

My gut told me there was a more significant connection between the execution of Sanders, McQueen, The Noriegas and the importers from the Caribbean. We’d seen a lot more narcotics and illegal prescription drugs coming into the region. Most of the coke was coming out of Colombia, which is Noriega’s home country and where his main supply came from. When Sanders was alive, most of his product came from the US Virgin Islands, and we suspected the Selvadorada Canal. But the increased presence of the US military fighting for control over the canal has led to a decline in illegal drug trafficking via that route the last couple of years.

 

“Vega, Moynihan, let’s go,” called Loomis.

The rest of the task force assembled by our tactical maps and operations logistics board. Loomis stood in front of the board and looked at each one of us on his team. We were all tired after working sun up to sun down since the search. Nobody wanted to be here.

“The search of Flex’s apartment didn’t turn up much -” Loomis began to say. “That’s the understatement of the year,” interrupted Tom Kaworski. I rolled my eyes. He was always the first one to offer up his useless opinion on the obvious.

“Can I finish?” glared Loomis. Tom shrugged, folding his arms. “Like I was saying, we didn’t get much, at least nothing that could connect McQueen to the Caribbean runners. As we know, he’s not moving as much product these days. There’s a number of reasons for that. Supply routes coming through the Selvadorada Canal have been jeopardized caused by fighting in the region. Getting into Brindleton Bay hasn’t been easy for anyone drug importers and legit businesses alike.”

“Lamar also doesn’t have the same support nor suppliers Sanders had. He wasn’t giving them a fair deal, they’re going elsewhere,” I spoke up. “He’s hanging by the thinnest of threads,” said Erik, nodding in agreement.

“Lamar’s nervous because he’s losing hold on the old territory owned by DM. Violent crimes and homicide are up, here and in the 38th. Louie Vega told me the dealers and buyers have been stealing from each other leading to retaliatory attacks and murders,” added Hartley. Ever since he slipped up and spent the night the other day, our conversations have been scarce. By scarce, I meant when he asked me a question about work; I gave him one or two-word answers. Being on my shitlist wasn’t a good place to be. The fact Hartley’s bringing up my brother, Louie was some coded message to me.

Louie was a lieutenant and a commanding officer in the Robbery-Homicide division of the 38th precinct, one of the largest in the SMPD, not quite as big as mine, the 29th. I expected to see him at our parent’s house on Sunday. He and Hartley were causal police friends and part of a group of detectives that would get drinks together at a cop bar not too far from here. Louie was never as forthcoming with information with me as he was with Hartley. He would claim that if he had a tip, he’s obligated to share with Hartley before me because he was my supervisor. It was a crock of shit of course and just my brother’s way of telling me I wasn’t welcomed in their little boy’s club. I didn’t need or want in their club; I just wanted any and all information that would help with my investigations.

“DM’s absence left his cartel without real effectual leadership and opened up his territory. The power vacuum is immense. We knew this would happen. Some of the Sanders members had pegged Noriega as the one who called for his execution, but he remains untouched,” I said. It should’ve been very telling that no one has taken Carmine out considering he would have much to gain from getting rid of DM. When Miguel was killed, he was investigating the Sanders cartel. DM may not have been the one to pull the trigger, but he was the head, don’t expect me to cry for him. When I heard of his death, I didn’t feel one inch of sympathy for that bitch. It was the opposite of what I wanted. If DM were alive, I could tie him to all those responsible for Miguel’s death and find out who tipped them off that he and Burl Griggs were undercover.

“McQueen can’t rely on the little amount of product he has access to, which tells us that he’ll go after Noriega. Now that Carmine is in jail, we can expect him to try a move on Lupita,” said Detective Greg Metting, the task force lead.

“Great not only will the 29th see more homicides, but we’ll get a full-scale war with the Noriegas. The perp I brought in for questioning this morning, I’m not getting anything out of him,” said Milli Porcelli.

“You brought in one of McQueen’s homeboys? Well, maybe you can’t speak their homey language. We should have Vega interview him. These are some of your peeps, right homegirl?” laughed Tom, faking a Black American vernacular. I hate people who laugh at their own jokes. Alway the loudest and the most wrong in the unit.

“Fuck you Kaworski. Maybe if your fat repugnant ass didn’t come to work smelling like shit every day, perps would be more inclined to throw you a bone,” I shot back.

“Alright, knock it off! Porcelli and Hartley will talk to him. He’s in interrogation A. Okay do what you got to do. Get me your reports by the end of the day. Talk to your contacts out on the street, shake a tree, throw some money at them, I don’t care,” said Loomis.

After our meeting broke up, I followed Loomis into his office. I had wanted the chance to get to talk to the suspect we had in custody. I didn’t trust that Milli would know what questions to ask. “Lieu, who do we have?”

He rubbed his tired eyes and looked as if he had aged ten years just in the last two days. His head was now entirely grey, an occupational hazard. “Uh, Cassius Haynes; known on the street as C-Daddy.”

“Crip-Daddy? He reps the 500 set in Oasis Springs, what’s he doing here? Oasis is Bobby Wilds’ operation. The 500s don’t usually come out this way.” I had my suspicions why a known Crip leader would be in Spice Lane, but I would need to confer with my contact. San Myshuno hasn’t had a major gang war between sets in years. There was a point when bloodshed got so bad the 29th had to recruit other officers to our Gang Unit. If anything we see more skirmishes out in Oasis where the gangs are regaining prominence.

“C-Daddy has ties to Meech and by extension Lamar. We’re keeping an eye on his crew. McQueen wants to root out the gangs under Noriega. I don’t think Bobby Wilds has anything to do with this regardless where C is from; he’s not connected to the outfit. All we have are breadcrumbs right now,” replied Loomis.

Choosing my next words carefully, I didn’t want to let on to Lieu that I had contacts that aided me in my investigation into Miguel’s murder, but the task force war on the McQueen cartel was very much connected. I had to handle this right.

“I wanted to talk to him. Porcelli won’t get much from him; I can tell you that right now,” I said. If I told Lieu about any information, I was privy to over Hartley or Milli he’d demand to know what it is and I’m not prepared to give up anything just yet, mainly because I didn’t have all my bases covered.

“Vega, they’ll handle it. I need you out there talking to your guys on the streets. C-Daddy is low on the totem pole; Hartley can handle this interrogation.” I started to protest, but Loomis gave me a look signifying this conversation was over. It wasn’t worth wasting my time. There was more than one way to skin a cat.

I exited his office and headed back to my desk. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Hartley had been watching me the entire time.

I sat down, keeping my eyes on him as he made his way over to Porcelli and began conversing with him in a low tone.

I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but Porcelli’s face was tied up in knots. If Hartley’s next move was to interrogate Crip-Daddy, I could guess what he’d said to Milli. As he was one of the supervisors, he could make that call.

“Bella, you know what’s curious though about that bust. Hialeah is mostly Cuban,” observed Erik, looking up from his computer and over the low partition that separated our desks.

“Yeah, so?” I shrugged. “Well, my mother’s family is from there, and they’re Cuban. More Colombians have been moving into the area. ‘Not saying all of them are drug dealers, but the ones moving into the city and setting up shop isn’t your everyday families. The people in my mom’s neighborhood notice that kind of thing. The Noriegas are from Colombia,” replied Erik.

“Carmine and his siblings have been in South Florida for years, particularly Miami, where Lupita was born. They control a large portion of import distribution down there. It’s fast becoming the coke capital of the US once again. Don’t you remember the eighties?” I asked, wryly.

“Hardly, being that I was born in the late eighties. You can’t remember that much either; we’re only a couple of years apart. Anyway, the Noriegas are looking to expand, not just in Florida by moving into new cities. That’s a lot of weight for the amount of territory they own down there. Carmine, Hector, Lupita, they all know McQueen is weak. They want to move more of their product here to San Myshuno.”

What Erik said did make a lot of sense. Even if Lupita was trying to lay low now because she didn’t want heat while her father awaited trial, I could see how she could be laying the groundwork for a bigger operation. The guys under McQueen as well as his dissenters were going to try everything they could to stop that from happening. Sanders loyalists may have broken off from McQueen, but the last thing they would want is Noriega taking over their territories.

I was interested in seeing what C-Daddy would have to say about his activity in Spice Lane. He wouldn’t say much, but if he acknowledged any movement at all, it would provide me with context I could follow up with on with my contact later. They weren’t the type to readily give me information. A lot of what I worked off these days were hunches and very little concrete evidence.

I had a “box” that said 1000 piece puzzle, and it was like I only had 241 pieces so far, the rest either were lost or I didn’t know where they all fit in just yet.

******************************

I headed over to observe Hartley’s interrogation. When I entered the room, Porcelli was already waiting. I didn’t acknowledge him. He and Tom were two peas in the same smug asshole pod. I stood on the other side of the two-way mirror. From watching his body language and hearing his evasive answers, I could see Crip-Daddy was blowing nothing but hot air. Hartley would need to trip him up and get him to admit it wasn’t by Bobby Wilds’ order that he was in Spice Lane.

“Why were you hanging out near 45th today? That’s not where you usually hang out is it?” asked Hartley.

“Nigga, I told that white cop that picked me up. I was mindin’ my muthafuckin’ bid’ness,” replied C-Daddy; crossing his arms, he turned his head and spat on the floor.

Hartley tapped his hands on the stained table that had seen better days. Now it was covered in coffee stains, scratches, and dust. Chuckling, he shook his head in mock disbelief.

“Your ‘bid’ness–” said Hartley using air quotes “…is, unfortunately, interfering with Lupita’s business. Bobby got you out here making some pretty dumb ass moves.”

“I don’t fuck with Bobby.”

“If you tell me his plan now, I’ll help you out.” It was an act on Hartley’s part; he knew Wilds wasn’t in Noriega territory. We were going to be here all day if we didn’t get this sewed up soon and got C to reference anything remotely about McQueen.

“I don’t need no help, I’m good, G.” This whole line of questioning was going nowhere fast. “You’re a 500 from OS. Bobby runs your city, and you pretend to be in Spice Lane for what reason—sightseeing?” asked Hartley.

“I was visiting my baby mama,” said C-Daddy. I rolled my eyes. I wanted to tell Hartley to stop wasting his time. “Oh? Last I checked, as of this morning we confirmed your baby’s mother lives with you,” said Hartley.

“Yeah, one does, but I got more than one baby mama.” I could see that C-Daddy was amused by this back and forth. We all knew he was lying; not about having more than one baby mama, but saying she lived in Spice Lane.

“And yet that one doesn’t live in San Myshuno at all. You got anything else?” Hartley cocked his head to the side, waiting for whatever else type of lie C would make up.

Crip-Daddy scratched at his long bushy beard. He looked over at the two-way mirror and flipped the bird. “How much these white popo payin’ yo’ black ass to tap dance for them, huh Nigga? You probably the blackest nigga in the department too. I get it, it good for optics and shit. We both know if you wasn’t wearing that badge, you’d be sitting where I was unless they didn’t shoot ‘cho ass first. All black men is liabilities out here. You ain’t no different than me, G.”

Hartley got up and slammed his chair under the table. “Let’s get one thing, straight nigga. We aren’t the same, but we do have some things in common. We’re both black, we both have guns, although mine are legal, and society fears us. But do you know what they fear more than some two-bit ass hood nucca running around waving colors? They fear me, an educated black man with power. And as far as I’m concerned, you need to be scared too because the real black people who give a damn about their neighborhoods ain’t gonna be run out by Y’all. You fixed your lips to call me a tap dancer, am I correct?”

“Yeah, Nigga, you dancin’ for the white man, killing other black men out ‘che. You doin’ yo’ slavemasters work for them.” C’s words were laced with venom; he was trying to elicit a response from Hartley.

Glancing at the two-way mirror, Hartley steadied his gaze before turning to C-Daddy again. Leaning over on the table, he got right in his face.

“Hear this because I’m only going to say it once. You and the rest of the piece of shit bangers are out here killing men who look just like you. I’m the police; I follow the law of the land. I arrest and jail those who break the laws, no matter what color they are. You’re trying to say I’m an agent of white supremacy as an officer of the law. The bad racial relations between my community and the police is not lost on me. But don’t you ever try to justify your criminal activity because you feel ‘oppressed’. You oppress other black people in your hood every single day. So fuck your faux racial politics. You care no more for the next black man than the  architects of a society built on institutionalized racism.”

Both rooms got very quiet. I could see the tense expression on Porcelli’s face in the window’s reflection. He didn’t say anything and why would he? Hartley’s message was as much for him as it was for C-Daddy.

*****************************

My family usually met for dinner at my parent’s house every other Sunday. My mom would like it if we met every week, but it just wasn’t possible with our busy careers. The Vegas is a well-known law enforcement family. I have relatives at just about every level. From local cops, state cops, federal agents, prosecutors, and judges were either in my immediate or extended family. My father served on the force for nearly thirty years and retired as a high ranking and decorated commander in the SMPD. Other than Miguel, my older brothers Louie and Daniel were on the force.

I became a cop against my father’s wishes. He doesn’t believe the force is any place for a woman. His sexism is nothing new to me and something I’ve been aware of all my life. I don’t try to pretend that being a woman head detective is something special, although people say it’s an accomplishment. I don’t want preferential treatment because of my sex. I do expect the backlash and resentment I receive from male coworkers. I don’t go home and cry about it because it doesn’t faze me one way or another. I’m not a pioneer nor a feminist fighting for the rights of other women. The only person whose rights I look out for is me. If I didn’t, people would try to get over on me; that’s something I’ve never allowed from anyone nor ever will.

I arrived at my parent’s home in Willow Creek late in the afternoon; entering through the dining room back door and headed into the kitchen where I found my mother, Camila chopping onions. “Hey, baby. I didn’t hear you. Why’d you come through the back?” she asked, looking up. “Mami I always come through the back.”

“Since you’re here, you want to help me with dinner?”

I hesitated for a moment looking at the array of vegetables, spices and half rolled dough on the counter. My mother knew the only appliances I used on a regular basis was my coffeemaker and microwave. “Renata’s not here?” I asked. My older sister was much more capable of handling domestic duties than I was.

“Yeah, Renata’s in the living room. Your sister is helping too. I think she’s getting the kids settled with a movie before dinner starts.”


Mom went back to chopping her onions. Her demeanor had changed like she wanted to say something to me. I wondered what I had done this time. Either it would be another plea for me to take a desk job, leave the force or some other complaint to do with my career.

“I heard about that raid you went on, at that drug dealer’s apartment,” said Mom. She turned to look at me again. Briefly, I could see the worry lines forming on her face. “It wasn’t a raid; it was a search. There were no battering ram, no SWAT; not that big of a deal.”

This time Mom completely stopped chopping. She drew a breath before speaking again. “You are dealing with more than just some local dealer. This is a cartel, Isa. Not just any cartel either, but the same one responsible for…” she stifled a cry before trailing off. I knew what she was going to say ‘the same cartel responsible for killing Miguel. I tried to mask the frustration in my voice. My brother’s death still felt very raw to all of us at times, especially my mother. “It’s part of the job, Mami. It’s what I do.”

“There’s all kinds of things you can do and stay on the force. You don’t have to be out there putting yourself on the line.” Mom waved her hands in frustration. We seemed to have this same argument at least once a month, especially now that the team was deep into investigating McQueen and the rise in activity all over the city.

“Do you ever ask Louie or Daniel to leave the force, Mom? No, you don’t. I can’t speak for everyone in my unit, but Lieu, Hartley, Erik, and I aren’t out here to play games, and neither are the Caribbean cartels and Noriegas of the world who are killing people over the product on these streets.”

I understood why my mother was upset, but she had no right to demand things of me that she never did her sons. I started to make my way out of the kitchen when my father walked in. I was used to his disapproving looks by now. I preferred to stay out of his way when I came home. As much as I hated arguing with my mother, I could brush off her main concerns to being an overly protective parent. My father’s disdain for me was based purely on my being a female cop, something he’s always been dead set against and has earned me his ire ever since I entered the academy.

“Sanders was Loomis’ guy, yet his murder is still unsolved. He’s good, but he doesn’t see how ineffectual his task force is. I know many others within Narcotics who should’ve been promoted,” said Dad, pointedly. The latter I could somewhat agree with; that not everyone on the task force was as effectual as others, but the former was a load of shit and my father knew it.

“Being that when Sanders was killed, it was in the 38th’s jurisdiction and your son is a supervisor in Robbery-Homicide, and the case is in his department, I would take that up with Louie,” I replied. Dad gave me a stern look that meant not to try him. But honestly, I didn’t give a shit if he was mad. He was taking a shot at my department and in essence me by blaming us for DM Sanders’ unsolved execution.

I didn’t want to let on how much his words stung me. In secret, finding out who killed DM was essential to my investigation into who murdered Miguel because I felt like everything was connected. Officially, I’m not a homicide detective, not in my brother’s precinct, nor is it ethical for me to look into a family member’s murder. I’ve never been one to play by the rules. And I’ll continue looking at the case until I exact justice on Miguel’s killers.

*******************************

I started to walk toward the living room when I heard my father’s steps behind me. I thought he would say something further about my job, but he made a left into his study and firmly closed the door behind him.

My nephews and nieces were running in and out the house. “C’mon Y’all. It’s getting chilly, watch a movie until dinner’s ready!” called Renata, trying to wrangle in her kids as well as my brother Daniel’s children.

I pulled out my secondary burner phone to see if I’d received any messages from my contact for our meeting later tonight. My nerves were on edge, I wanted to go out for a smoke, but my mother forbade me from smoking and reentering the house. My connect told me they would text me with the details, but I should’ve heard from them by now.

“This is the new bracelet Montrell got me. He said it’s a pre-wedding gift.” I heard my younger sister, Natalia’s voice raise. She was sitting in living room talking to my sister-in-law Tiffany. She glanced up in my direction, pretending to straighten her hair so I could see the diamond her fiance gave her. The same rock Natalia’s been wearing for nearly two years. She’s been “engaged” to the same ain’t shit Panthers cornerback for just as long.

The last thing Natalia actually believes is that I give one shit about her and her man, which is everyone’s man if you wanted to know the truth. Community penis works like that. I know many a-hoes Montrell keeps in high heels.

For the next half an hour, I sat in the foyer, repeatedly looking at my phone. I needed a cigarette badly. My contact doesn’t have my primary cell number. I wanted to call or text them first, but I couldn’t appear overeager. I had to play this right. They were under the impression that meeting me was more crucial for them.

I hated waiting for information. I suddenly remembered the time we were all waiting for the news after we learned Miguel had been attacked. We didn’t immediately know if he was dead or alive. It seemed like days. Loomis was head of detectives at the time. When we saw him pull up to the curb, we knew Miguel was gone, and some part of me died that day. The life left my mother’s eyes. Whatever warmth my father maintained after becoming jaded after years of service on the force was gone. I hardened myself even more than what was natural for me. Whatever reservations I had about entering the academy against my father’s wishes ceased to exist. I had no choice; I had to avenge Miguel.

I was lost in my memories; I didn’t hear my brother, Daniel trying to get my attention. “Isa, did you hear me?” I looked up. “What?”
“Dinner’s almost ready. What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep looking at your phone?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Just waiting to hear back from Moynihan on our case.” Daniel nodded and started to turn toward the dining room. I reached out; grabbing his arm. “Wait a sec. Have you or any of your units picked up any of C-Daddy’s crew in Spice Lane in recent weeks?”

Daniel searched my face for a moment. “No, not recently. But a couple of my guys have seen Remy Wallace lurking in the area.” I did a double take. Remy was Meech’s cousin and apart of his Theta crew. This only confirmed my suspicions from the other day that McQueen meant to move on Noriega. The Thetas weren’t an itty bitty shit street gang like the 500s that C repped. They were Meech’s crew and reported to him directly. He’s Lamar’s second in command. If Remy was down in Spice Lane, it was because Flex told him to go there.

I wasn’t done talking with Daniel when Tiffany interrupted us. “C’mon now, it’s Sunday. You can talk down at the station.”

I sucked my teeth. “You must be new to this family because no one shuts up about the job just because it’s Sunday.” Tiffany didn’t say anything but motioned for Daniel to come with her. “Just a minute, babe,” he said.

“Bella, we’ll talk tomorrow. If I have time, I’ll head to Narcotics before I go out.” It wasn’t a good idea if I appeared to be carrying on an investigation on my own through my older brother. Sure, I ran into him and our cases overlapped, but I was in a precarious situation and needed to appear to do everything by the book. “No. I’ll find you. Don’t mention this to anyone, especially Hartley or Louie.”

******************************

“Are the kids settled?” Mom asked Renata as she came into the dining room. When there was too many of us for dinner, the kids sat at their own table. Renata nodded her head and informed Mom that she could not stay that late, especially with her husband away at an FBI conference. I would have to make up some excuse to get out of here early as well.

As an FBI agent, Stephan worked out of the New Crest field office and had investigated portions of the Noriega operations over the years. Being that Renata is a state attorney, she’s had to recuse herself from the cases her husband was directly involved in. I didn’t run into my sister as much anymore since she left the D.A.’s office. There was a degree of distance between all of us in our respective careers; it’s what I preferred.

I sat at the dinner table trying to will the speed of time. I was trying not to be so obvious when I checked my phone for any new messages. My father caught me once before and shot me a disapproving look.

After nearly an hour my phone buzzed inside my jacket. I tried to play off like I dropped something on the floor and looked at my text:

Blue Moon 10

That was the end of the message. Good, now I could start putting my play in motion.

**********************************

After dinner, I told my mom I didn’t have time to stay for dessert and needed to get home to work on a case. I cut her off before she could put up a protest and attempt to guilt trip me.

I headed out the front door and lit a cigarette. I took a long drag before letting out my breath. Flicking it, I watched as the ashes disappeared before hitting the ground. In the distance, I heard the deep bass of a car sound system approaching.

The car pulled into the driveway and my little brother, Manuel hopped out and slammed the door shut.

“Wassup, Isa?” called Manuel, lifting his chin. I took another drag of my cigarette, not answering in return.

Once again, my little brother had arrived late for dinner. When I couldn’t make it or came late, it was because I was busy working. Manuel, on the other hand, is irresponsible, does poorly in school and he’s spoiled as fuck by our mother.

“Is Mom mad?”

“Go in there and find out, shit.” I didn’t attempt to hide the disdain in my voice. That wasn’t clue enough for Manuel to tell him I wasn’t in the mood to be bothered. “Why you out here anyway? You out?” he asked.

I scoffed. “Get inside boy, don’t worry about what I’m doing.” I then turned directly toward Manuel and blew a large cloud of smoke in his face. He shook his head, smirking. “I got a blunt if you want. That cigarette ain’t gon’ do shit!”

I turned my lip up. “Do you want me to bust you?”

“Weed ain’t illegal no more, sis!” Manuel continued to laugh. I looked him up and down and wondered how we could sometimes be related. “In some areas of San Myshuno, no. Willow Creek yes it is.”

I studied Manuel for a moment longer. He thought this immature, reckless party-boy behavior was cute.

The front door opened. “Manny, you better get inside; Papi’s gonna break his foot in your ass,” said Louis coming down the steps.

Manuel sighed; hustling past us and into the house.

Louie stood beside me, silent. The only audible sounds were the crickets and wind chimes. I could feel him looking at me. Finally, he spoke. “You off to meet Hartley?”

I didn’t answer and continued to stare across the street. “Look, Bella, you need to watch your step,” he warned.

I tossed my cigarette to the ground; stomping out the butt and looked up at my brother. “Glass houses, Louie.” I said; leaving him on the sidewalk.

Once I reached my car, I pulled out another cigarette. My night hadn’t even started yet.

*******************************

 

I left Willow Creek driving the thirty miles back into the city to one of San Myshuno’s seedier red light districts. I parked my car in a parking lot near the train tracks about a block and a half away from the Blue Moon motel where I was to meet my contact. I purposely arrived earlier than our agreed upon time to gain a vantage point.

I pulled my Glock out from my glovebox; tucking it under my jacket. I softly closed the car door; pressing it all the way shut with my hip and clicked the alarm.

A lot of prostitution, sex work, and human trafficking occurs in this part of town. The Red Light District is part of the Spice District borough and much of the territory was under my precinct’s jurisdiction.

I quickly strutted up the block to the motel, taking care not to walk too loudly over the cracked pavement. For an area known for prostitution and sex trafficking, it was eerily quiet.

Once I reached the Blue Moon, I ducked behind a corner and looked down the alley to make sure I hadn’t been followed.

Several abandoned buildings shared the same lot as the motel. Many homeless people and squatters lived there, and it was known to be a spot for crackheads to buy their drugs and get high.

I heard a couple of voices in the distance.

I stepped from behind the corner of the building and spotted a hoe taking a john into one of the rooms opposite to where I was standing on the other side of the lot.

I found a vending machine located near the neon signs advertising a strip club that was attached to the motel.  I knew the Blue Moon not to have cameras, but I wasn’t comfortable lurking around in the open.

I walked up the machine and reached my hand around until I felt a door key taped to the back just as my contact said there would be.

I passed the room the hoe and the john went into but didn’t hear any sounds. There were multiple cars in the lot, most likely for the club as several of the rooms were boarded up.

It was common for the strippers to make extra money on the side by turning tricks and taking their customers to the rooms that were available.

I hurried over to the room where I was to meet my contact. I glanced down the walkway again. The room next door was boarded up with old worn out wood. At least no one would be on the other side of the wall.

I pressed my ear against the door, listening for any sounds coming from inside.

I slipped the key into the lock, slowly pushing the door open. It creaked loudly, and I was met with a heavy musky smell like when you’re in a thrift store or an old person’s home whose family had long since abandoned them and no one came to clean up for their relative or even check if they had died.

I found a lamp and flipped the switch. The room looked like it was stuck in a different era. The paint on the walls and ceiling were peeling, and there was a sign that said ‘VHS Rental XXX $4.25. But there was no VCR or even a DVD player in sight. Most establishments that rent rooms by the hour weren’t concerned with amenities nor pleasing their guests.

It was almost too quiet, especially for a motel with thin walls. All of a sudden, an arm reached around my waist; a hand covered my mouth.

“You and the rest of the boys in blue thought you were gonna sow my shit up, didn’t you, Bitch?” a male whispered in my ear. His Zenga cologne was easily recognizable. He tightened his grip on my mouth. I gave him a quick elbow thrust, just strong enough for me to escape his grasp.

I turned around to face my visitor. “You knew it was only a matter of time. Don’t attempt to get mad. I warned you.”

Marquez “Meech” Flex stood there. He grabbed me again, this time pulling my waist until our bodies were pressed against each other. “You and the rest of those muthafuckas could’ve cost me a lot. Y’all put me through a lot of shit.” He had a countenance that scared off most, but I wasn’t like other people.

“Isn’t it lucky for you that I tipped you off then?”

“No. It’s lucky for Y’all. But I ask myself why I keep you around when you don’t do shit! You let those bitches in my house when there was a lot you could’ve done to prevent it! How inept can you fuckin’ be?”

I slapped him hard across the face. The fact that he dared to accuse me of not doing anything for him when I’ve sacrificed so much to protect him, pissed me off.

“Are you out of your damn mind? I’m the reason your ass isn’t sitting in a jail cell right now! You need me, not the other way around!” I yelled.

“You lucky you a fuckin’ female,” said Marquez. This time, he yanked my wrist; aggressively turning me around and slammed me into the wall. “You want it, girl?”

My nipples hardened, and the juices were flowing. I was caught in a maze of emotions; from anger and hostility to passion and my insatiable desire for sex with this man.

I feverishly unbuttoned my pants and heard the sound of Marquez unbuckling his jeans. He slowly gyrated his penis against my ass, lightly at first, then picked up speed and added force. For what seemed like an eternity, he finally entered my walls with such ferocity, I cried out in immeasurable pleasure.

He was beating the shit out of it; I’d started to come after only a couple of minutes.

Marquez picked me and headed to the bed. I sat on the edge with my legs gapped open. “Come here,” I whispered.

As Marquez began climbing on me, I told him to wait while I removed my blazer, only keeping my tank top and heels on.

He positioned himself from behind. The strength and voracity I felt from his body banging into mine left me in a state of pure carnal ecstasy. I could not get enough, it was like I was addicted to him.

“Oh! Yeah, right there,” I said between breaths; my head was bobbing and weaving like I was having convulsions.

“You nasty hoe, you like that?”

“Yes!” I screamed. Marquez grabbed my hair and wrapped his hand around my throat as he continued to plow away. “Fuck the police. It’s good fuckin’ the police,” he grumbled.

‘And I know she the law, and she know I’m the boy
And she know I get high a-bove the law
And she know I’m raw, she know it from the street
And all she want me to do is fuck the police…’

Marquez pumped one last hard time, and we shuddered through one last simultaneous orgasm. My heart was beating fast and loud in my ears. My chest heaved in and out as I tried to steady my breathing.

I had to refocus; it wasn’t an easy thing to do. Marquez made me do things I otherwise wouldn’t. I was completely aware of the risk I was taking sleeping with a notorious cartel member. I didn’t seek out this type of relationship with him, but it evolved, and he was an asset to my investigations pertaining to Miguel and the task force. I had to play him just right.

“Are we done? Can we talk now?” I asked, rising from the bed to find my clothes. “Don’t act like you all about honoring that badge all of a sudden. We could’ve “talked” anywhere. ‘To serve and protect’…you was serving that ass for real. You came here; I gave you what you wanted. You got fucked, Detective, like any other time,” he snickered.

His nonchalant swagger and attitude turned me on easily enough, but it could also just as easily make me want to pull out my Glock for some target practice. He busted a few tonight and now wanted to act like he did something particularly special. When will these stupid ass men ever learn?

“I don’t need to come to you. I can get peen anywhere. It’s a free and open market, and I’m a self-proclaimed capitalist; my portfolio is very diversified and fulfilling. Trust me when I say, I don’t get fucked by anybody. You’d do well to remember that.”

“Whatever you say, Detective.”

“We picked up one of your men the other day. Your presence in Spice Lane could only mean you’re planning on moving on Lupita. I don’t have to tell you how completely fucked you’ll be if you proceed.” I purposely didn’t mention to him that it was Crip-Daddy that was picked up. I wanted to see if he would voluntarily confirm Remy was there.

Marquez smirked but didn’t fall for my bait. “Oh yeah, C told me you’d picked him up, but you know I was aware of that,” he said, getting up and throwing on his boxers and jeans. Again, I attempted to redirect him into confirming why his cousin was Spice Lane. “You claim you know already. Why are the 500s down there anyway? Why would someone from Bobby Wilds’ city be in San Myshuno?”

“Why don’t you say what you mean and what you want to find out. You know damn well the 500 ain’t got shit to do with Bobby. They’re all over and not exclusive to Oasis,” replied Marquez.

“And yet C was picked up in territory that’s been exclusive to Noriega’s street affiliates for years.” I was trying to goad him out our back and forth racketball session where I serve the ball his way, he swerves and back, yet the game is never-ending.

“It was only through some consensus years ago that DM allowed Carmine’s peeps to stay in Spice Lane. The homies don’t care about the 500s.” He was trying to put me off as to the real reason C-Daddy and his goons have been setting up shop over there, but it wasn’t going to work.

I laughed. “You’re attempting to feed me a spoonful of this shit that because the Latin gangs aren’t Bloods, it’s of no consequence for Crips to come into their territory. ‘The fuck I look like to you? This ain’t OS. It ain’t about colors or sets primarily. It’s ethnicity first, set second, colors last in San Myshuno. Those groups ain’t never been cool with each other and they ain’t about to start.”

“Is that what y’all irrelevant ass defunct nineties gang unit told you?”

“I don’t need anyone to tell me shit about the 5s or the Spice Lane sets. Lamar has you setting yourself up for a shitstorm you’re not prepared to fight. And he fucking knows that. ‘You wanna go down for him? Give me something on McQueen! I’ve known for weeks now there’s some connection between him, the Spice Lane set up, and the shit out there in Miami with Hector Noriega. Carmine’s brother runs Miami. That bust in Hialeah is rumored to be one of his drop houses. Lamar’s using you to go after Lupita while her father awaits trial. He has some type of association with whoever rolled over on Hector. Do not play me!” I yelled.

I had had just about enough of Marquez and his games. My patience was wearing thin. I didn’t believe for a second that Lamar had the organization to go after Hector nor the ability to steal any product not seized by the feds. The task force wasn’t even sure Lamar played any part in the bust. My instincts told me the smaller play for Spice Lane was a set up for an eventual attack on Hector and Lupita.

“You are fuckin’ yellin’ about Spice Lane, now we talking about Hialeah? Bitch, make up your mind about what conversation you want to have.” I slammed my fist into my palm. “They’re all connected!” My patience with Marquez was done.

With a menacing look on his face, Marquez stepped closer. His mood had quickly darkened. “Look, I told you before I don’t know what connections Lamar may or may not have to Miami. He’s never had a direct line to Carmine, Hector, or Lupita. When DM dealt with the Noriegas, he negotiated with Carmine. When he was killed, none of those relationships passed down to Lamar because they don’t fuck with him like that. You lookin’ for things that don’t exist.”

“You’re full of shit. Either you think I was born yesterday or there’s a whole lot about Lamar you don’t know. If there’s a next time we meet, I expect something. I won’t continue putting myself on the line to protect you. Give me meat, not scraps.” I couldn’t go on with this go-round; my time had been wasted.

Marquez leaned forward. “You don’t call the shots. You ain’t running shit. I may know things, but it doesn’t mean I’ll tell 5-O. When your thirsty ass learns how to ask the right questions, come see me. But for now, you can get the fuck up out my face,” he replied, cryptically.

One of the most critical lessons civilians need to learn is to not mess with the police. There are multiple levels of unchecked power, means, and accessibility cops have, and I have no reservations about taking advantage of them all. “If you don’t want to start measuring your life in ten to fifteen-year intervals, you better get straight with me. We can make your life unbearable. You don’t want that.”

Marquez snatched my wrist; yanking me forward. “You like numbers huh? 1501 Delaware, 704 Spice Avenue Apartment 202, 841 Brookhaven Lane. How you like them numbers, Hoe?” he snarled.

Those were the addresses of Loomis, Erik, and Hartley. To threaten my team was a bad move on his part. I felt rage surging through my body, enough of this shit. I dug my nails into Marquez’s hand, forcing myself from his grip. I bent down to pick my blazer off the floor and retrieved my Glock. Springing back up, I unchecked the safety and took aim at Marquez.

All the blood had rushed to my face; my bra started to feel like a strangulation device around my tightened chest. I had crazy eyes. Marquez made the mistake of moving directly into my crosshairs. I could go zero to one hundred, real quick.

“Bitch, is that supposed to scare me?” Marquez expanded his arms lurching forward.

“Two things my father always said: Don’t make an attempt with a thinly veiled threat and don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash. Watch yourself, Marquez, because others are watching you. Your 500s, Thetas, none of you are safe from me. Just because you had your dick in me doesn’t mean I won’t hesitate to put a bullet in you. If you even try any underhanded shit against my team, I will know. It won’t be the Noriegas you have to watch over your shoulder for because I’ll get to you first—I promise you that.”

 

****Author’s Note: Obviously this is a big turning point in not only Bella’s storyline but Marquez’s as well. I’ve planned for this specific scene for several months now. The last scene does have some sexually graphic language and situations, but the point of it was not merely having sex for the sake of having sex. In Bella’s bio, it’s stated that she suffers from sex addiction and she’s strongly attracted to Marquez against her better wishes. As a cop, she’s crossed the line, even if her initial reasons for making Marquez an asset was to assist in her investigation of her brother’s murder. I’ve said this before, there are no real villains or heroes in this story. This chapter was a bit more challenging to write than my previous chapters of GOP. There are several moving elements involving the narcotics trade, the cartels of the cities in the region, the importers who come through Florida via the Caribbean and the Selvadorada Canal, which I created somewhat based on the Panama Canal, so there’ll be some historical references as it pertains to the canal in future chapters. 

I look forward to developing this storyline and bringing in Lupita Noriega as another main character shortly. 

****Hartley’s interrogation of Crip-Daddy. I got the name from a real person who was in the CRIPS and mutual associates of some of my relatives about thirty years ago. My character is not based on any real person.  I hadn’t planned on the conversation turning to racial politics, police relations with the black community and how some black officers see themselves in an organization that some feel is against Black Americans and other people of color. But it was something that needed to be said as some of the characters will deal with these issues. I’m not painting any one side as all wrong or all right. I’m interested in presenting honest dialogue from all sides even if  I don’t agree and it makes me uncomfortable in doing so. I think one of the most important things a writer must do is be honest. 

****Sidenote, when I wrote Marquez’s line “fuck the police” in a sexual context, I thought about that line from Wayne’s song Mrs. Officer. It seemed to fit the situation so well, and I don’t even consider myself a fan. LOL

****Be sure to check out the biographies of Bella, Marquez, and Lupita in the character bio index. You can also read about the Vega family there too. Bella’s first POV can be read in chapter 2 Sex, Guns, and Cigarettes. Marquez’s first POV occurs in chapter 6 All Harm, All Foul Check us out on Facebook for cc and story updates. Come and join our group. SOCS

The title of this chapter is from a movie of the same name.

Thanks so much for reading and Happy Simming!

-Camille

Chapter 5 Death to The Instagram “Model”

Ayana Dinha’s POV

 

I peered through the lens of my camera at the two models engaged in multiple poses; working every angle of their faces and bodies. I quickly glanced out the window, hoping I would finish before losing natural light. Miko and Klaudia were here in my home studio participating in a shoot for a new feature in S.H.E, my online magazine. Ekko and Sade, the other models, were sitting along the wall whispering in a hushed tone among each other. Occasionally, I heard a small snicker escape from Ekko’s mouth. Whatever little negative jabs they were shared between the both of them, seemed to bolster Sade’s amusement.

I’d worked with them before during my own days in front of the camera. Each girl had a different skin tone, so I had to be careful about the light and colors that bounced off their skin from my blue background. Ekko had a light caramel skin with warm undertones. Sade’s skin was a creamy dark coffee complexion. Miko whose Korean skin was more yellowish, but she was slightly lighter than Klaudia with her inherited dark Eastern European features. The ladies each had a unique look about them that stood out; they were perfect for the vision I had.

I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I worried that if I didn’t have every single detail perfect, not only would this project fail, but my entire magazine would cease to exist. “How did the fabric feel?” I called over to Miko. “Good. It’s wearable; nice structure,” she replied. “Some of these designers have come a long way since their early collections. Charo and Parazzo are finally spending the money on better quality fabrics,” snarked Klaudia.

Today we were shooting a nude clothing look with an array of pieces from multiple designers. I had to struggle for months to set up this feature with Taylor Wheland, the executive director of the San Myshuno Nu Model Management branch. She didn’t take my calls for over a month until Ekko asked her mother, former supermodel Aoki Takashi for a personal favor. Taylor worked with Aoki over two decades ago and was mostly responsible for catapulting her career and cementing her as the most successful Asian American supermodel. She considered my magazine small-time compared to the major players she dealt with on a regular basis. Taylor worked with the best, not to mention supermodel legend, Reagan Leeds-Powers.

The nude feature probably wouldn’t have taken so long to organize if I’d gone with Parminder’s suggestion of hiring popular Instagram models. I didn’t want to go in that direction because my brand is traditional classic modeling. So many formerly respectable publications have been bowing to these fake social media models instead of keeping fashion modeling what it should be: authentic real supermodels that are household names. Not your everyday round-the-way girl with ass shots, lip fillers, and fifty pounds of weave. That’s just on the more urban side of IG fashion girls; I can’t say most high-end magazines are turning to, but reality stars who are only famous for being famous are front and center in Vogue, Elle and walking for some of the most prominent fashion houses during fashion week.

Sade and Miko were industry friends of mine. I’ve known them for years. We walked some of the same runways at fashion week all over the world. Ekko is my friend outside of the industry, and we see each other with some frequency outside of work. After a break in shooting, I was busy trying to change the lighting for Ekko and Sade when Sade stormed over to Parminder Patel and complained that the pieces she chose weren’t flattering on her skin tone.

“Why would give me something this fucking drab?” snapped Sade. I looked at Parminder, who looked like she wanted to slap Sade across her face. Sade’s diva-like attitude was nothing new.

“We’re doing a nude colors shoot. The tone varies from shade to shade. I wanted to try out different swatches on you. I believe the pieces I gave you, work well,” answered Parminder through gritted teeth. Sade scoffed. “You’re obviously wrong, sweetie. When it comes to knowing your job, you are a novice. Ayana, what the hell am I supposed to do with this shit?”

Parminder’s face grew more distorted as Sade continued to berate her. I signaled with my head for Parminder to take a breather. While I considered Sade to be a friend, she was also an unbelievably demanding and domineering diva. “What is the problem, Sade?” I asked, trying to hide the exasperation in my voice.

“Your assistant is the problem! Why is she styling your shoot if she’s just an assistant? Can I get my fucking Starbucks I asked for over an hour ago?” demanded Sade. Ekko and Klaudia snickered. I rolled my eyes. “For one, we all wear many hats around here. Parminder is another editor and helps with most of the functions for my magazine. Fetching coffee isn’t her job, Sade, but a courtesy. Can we just get back to this? I think we can do away with the lighter nude shades and choose one that with more browns in it. The truth is, all the shades go nicely with your skin tone, Sade because it contrasts so well.”

Sade knew Parminder was no “assistant”  in the traditional sense. Not only was she my best friend and roommate, but Parminder was the Editor-at-Large of S.H.E magazine.

“Fine,” said Sade; angrily grabbing the garments from me to try on. Ekko, Miko, and Klaudia remained mostly quiet throughout Sade’s latest outburst, except for a few shady giggles directed at Parminder. I breathed a sigh of relief when Sade went to go and change into her jumpsuit. All I wanted to do was finish the shoot.

One thing I have noticed since conducting my shoots is that it’s much different when you are behind the camera as opposed to in front of it. I photographed most of my shoots for S.H.E myself, which saved me money when I could. That meant no camera assistant and many times it was just me styling the models. Parminder helped out when she could, but she had several other magazine responsibilities. I worked with other photographers and used stock images, but for specific features, I preferred to use my personal shots.

I needed capital to hire a proper staff and not have to play makeup artist, stylist, photographer, lighting guru, creative director, and photo editor all at the same time. Until then, it is something with which I must contend. I virtually had no money from the extras and tools I needed to grow S.H.E, so I was stuck with cutting corners where I could and robbing Peter to pay Paul each month. I did what I had to do to keep S.H.E alive. But I could only live on my savings and the money Parminder generously gave me that she had received from her parents.

I don’t think Mr. and Mrs. Patel would approve if they knew a considerable part of the allowance they sent Parminder each month went to paying S.H.Es bills, but what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, she claimed. At least Parminder had her parent’s assistance. The last thing I could ever expect from my mother and father was any financial help. They never approved of my career in fashion. Once I decided dropped out of college to pursue modeling, the checks dried up.

For the rest of the afternoon, Sade continued to complain about one thing or another. Either the clothes weren’t fitting right, she wanted a different outfit either one of the other models was wearing, or the shoot was taking too long. Sade was an up-and-coming Naomi with an attitude to match.

I turned on the stereo and raised the volume as high as I could stand; to drown out her whining.

Oooh, baby, baby
Baby, baby
Get up on this!

Salt and Pepa’s here, and we’re in effect
Want you to push it, babe
Coolin’ by day then at night working up a sweat
C’mon girls, let’s go show the guys that we know
How to become number one in a hot party show
Now push it
Ah, push it, push it good
Ah, push it, push it real good…

Yo, yo, yo, yo, baby-pop
Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed
Can’t you hear the music’s pumpin’ hard like I wish you would?
Now push it

************************

Once we wrapped, I couldn’t get the models out of my studio fast enough. Now I could look forward to having a bit of quiet while I went over the film. I spoke too soon. “Sade is freaking rude. I don’t see how you can be her friend,” said Parminder, walking into my office. She stubbornly folded her arms across her chest, ready to put up a fight if I were to respond in protest.

I didn’t have the energy to get into an argument with Parminder after what had been a draining day. I had tension in my neck and I could feel the pounding of a migraine coming on. I ran my hands over my face and stood silently for a moment as I tried to piece my words carefully together.

“She just likes things a certain way. Ignore her, and she’ll shut up.”

Parminder gave me a doubtful look. “That will never work with someone like Sade. She thrives on drama and acts like she’s the only one who matters in the room. The next time you choose to work with her, I don’t want to be involved. I won’t deal with her ass anymore.”

I didn’t need this from Parminder right now. She knew damn well I didn’t have a lot of funds to hire outside help for most of my projects. She was only thinking of herself. I swear it was like I had to do everything with zero support.

“Ayana, we need to talk about the expenses for the month. Every time I bring it up, you keep putting me off,” said Parminder, her eyebrow raised, as if she were challenging me. I could feel my stomach turning as a sense of dread swept over my body. I anticipated this conversation with Parminder for weeks, but I continually put it in the back of my head.

Every month it was the same thing. Parminder liked to tell me that S.H.E was barely breaking even through the advertising revenue and bills and other expenses.

“Can’t we talk about this tomorrow? I am editing film right now,” I said, attempting to put off discussing money. “No, Ayana we need to talk about our financial health. I know you’ve been dipping into your savings and paying bills on your credit cards. Getting money from my father, usually isn’t a problem, but he’s starting to question where all the money is going since I have to ask him for it a lot more these days,” said Parminder.

“It’s not like I ever asked you to get money from your dad,” I replied, turning away from her.

“Maybe not, but how else would we have been able to pay for the new camera equipment and the millions of other things we’ve needed? You also won’t take my suggestion and start featuring my social media starts and models. I know you want S.H.E to be a classic fashion and lifestyle magazine, but unless you’re Vogue or another major magazine, that mentality doesn’t work these days. We need to expand our presence on social media. We need to broaden our reader base,” said Parminder.

I finally turned around to face Parminder. I took a breath in an attempt to calm my nerves. Every time we talked about social media; things got heated. “Look, I’m not trying to cheapen my brand by inviting the latest skinny tea pusher to be featured in my mag. I was a real authentic high fashion model. I worked with some of the top designers in San Myshuno, New York, Milan, Paris, and London. These fake build-a-body, waist-trainer sales girls don’t do anything but take selfies and that over-inflated bought asses and pose with the latest rapper they’re screwing. S.H.E will never be that.”

Parminder rolled her eyes. “I am not talking about those IG thots, but a lot of them have huge a follower count. Instagram has a lot more models than the ones you just described. There are several of fashion blogs that got their start on Instagram as well. Right now, S.H.E only has two hundred thousand followers; it should be at a million or more by now. We need to reach out and collaborate with other people, the girls with a million plus followers to push the magazine. We can’t do this all alone, Ayana. I know this is not your vision for S.H.E, but the bigger we get, the more we will be able to do. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things to get ahead.”

I shook my head. Not because I disagreed with everything Parminder was saying. Some of what she said had a lot of truth to it. I just didn’t want to be a hypocrite and turn my magazine into something I hated. I’m all about class, style, taste, elegance. If I started inviting social media models and personalities into the S.H.E fold, I would lose a lot of what made me, me and what made S.H.E the magazine it is. This shit industry of social media famous models needed to die and true models needed to take back their reign.

Trying to create a successful magazine was beginning to take a  toll on my psyche. I’m not usually a snappy person. But I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety due to the stress of running S.H.E practically on my own. I was in dire straits. The bleaker our financial future looked, the more I knew something would have to give, and soon. I couldn’t go on like this.

*********************************

****Author’s Note: If you want to read more about Ayana’s background, check out her character biography here.

****You can check out S.H.E magazine online here. I created it in 2016 as part of another story I was going to write for Ayana at the time. 

My further commentary: Ayana feels the same way real life supermodels, and people in the fashion world do about the rise of “social media modeling.” A lot of people believe it cheapens the institution of high fashion altogether. But others have recognized that many popular blogs got their start on social media, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ayana will have to realize she needs to get with the times if she wants to see S.H.E become a success.  In other words, this is Ayana’s view. 

***and yes, I have IG Sim model characters who will take issue with Ayana and her stance on what “true modeling” is.  

 ****Lyrics credit to Salt n Pepa

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Rico Thomas, The Ruthless Pragmatic Player of the Game of Power

 

Rico has the Knowledge Aspiration

Rico’s traits are: Ambitious, Self-Assured, and Insider

I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me. I know where to look for it, and how to use it.”

-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

LBJ’s words here are true for Rico Thomas. He adheres to that truth each day. Like LBJ, Rico doesn’t gain his power through ideal tactics and what is considered morally right in the eyes of many (depending on who’s the observer). For someone who knows very few things in life are black and white, the ends will justify the means. It’s essential to Rico to set goals and achieve them by the best means possible, not by “any means necessary,” because not all means are the smartest and “any” leaves one open to considering some less than smart options.

Rico is the CEO of Thomas Global Strategies, a consulting firm that offers expertise and services for finance, legal, public relations, crisis, management, political strategy, and in several other fields. Rico founded his company and ran it on a much smaller scale when he was in prep school. He has a business degree from Wharton, one of the country’s premier business schools and an MBA from Harvard.

As a pragmatist, Rico often employs ruthless methods to get what he needs and serve his clients. He has little use for emotions when making decisions in his everyday life and business. Rico is highly intelligent, but he’s smart enough to know that he can’t assume to be the smartest person in the room. Keeping both friends and enemies alike in his fold, helps keeps his ear to the ground. It gives his associates a false feeling of security and makes them vulnerable to lower their guard, all to his advantage.

Rico’s motivation for his business is to serve his clients faithfully and efficiently. TGS may be a small firm, but its highly efficient and is gaining a reputation for its expertise. A significant portion of the firm’s clients is connected to the elite Blue Bloods in American and European society. However, Rico himself is not a classist and he believes even empowering someone born into a lower social class than he could be beneficial for his goals. For everyone Rico helps, that person is indebted to him. You may not know when he is coming to call in a favor, but once he shows up at your door, you know why he’s there.

As an apolitical consultant and operative, Rico services both Democrats and Republicans alike. Through crisis and management as well as public relations, Rico’s firm has provided consultation services to police organizations accused of brutality to black socialist groups who have nationally opposed the practice of excessive force and racial profiling. TGS counts The Congressional Black Caucus, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and members of the GOP as its clients. Through complete non-biased services to his clients, Rico has at times come to aide those that some see as fighting against “his own people.” However, Rico has no shame and no use for it. He doesn’t allow his ethnicity and background to control his decisions. He sees the world as it is, and deals with it accordingly.

Rico is a student of the 48 Laws of Power and makes many of his life decisions based on the fundamental truths of those laws. For if he allowed relationships and feelings to cloud his judgment, anyone would pounce on the opportunity to destroy him and take away what he has spent years building.

Knowing and spotting advantages for power is essential to survival, and Rico will take any opportunity to gain an advantage. He was born into wealth, but his family went through troubling financial hardships and lost most of their fortune before rebounding, albeit not at the same level. Rico witnessed how in an instant money didn’t secure his family. It can be taken from you in the blink of an eye. He has made it a goal to gain power and an edge for he doesn’t want to experience the feelings of helplessness and depending on someone else as his family did years ago. Power itself can be fleeting. You can’t put complete trust and faith into one person or entity. Loyalty only goes so far before it hands you your ass and you’ve been stripped of all power because you bet on the wrong horse.

The stakes are inevitably high and of vital importance. As a seasoned and skilled player of the game of power, Rico is good at winning, but it’s not always so easy, and when you’re on top, a fall to the floor is all that much harder. No one is immune, and anyone can win or lose at the game, for the power players are forever changing. Rico needs to make sure he can stay in the match in the growing face of adversity if he wants to win the game of power.

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