90 Degrees or Better

The drug lord rose from his couch to view the workers he had handling the drug packaging. It was all done in the comfort of his own basement in an upscale neighborhood. 4848 Park Drive, the street that housed many doctors and lawyers and high scaled politicians, was now a factory for drug trafficking.

He walked down to the basement where his workers diligently worked for twelve hours straight. A murderous shift, but very necessary to complete the demand. It was three in the morning and that basement was 90 degrees or better. Apparently, the drug lord decided that the midnight shift didn’t need heat before February or air conditioning before August. The foreman was stalking back and forth in his tee-shirt, jockey shorts and socks, threatening total nudity if the temperature didn’t fall before morning.

“Some packages are coming up short,” said the drug lord quietly.

“Short?” the foreman nervously replied.

“I said short, dammit!”

After hearing and digesting that word, short, the foreman felt the first tremor of suspicion. His impulse to deny the truth collided with his fear of having been discovered. He was stealing from his boss and there was nothing he could say to justify his actions. He was skimming off the top, and now he had to finally pay the piper. He looked directly into the drug lord’s eyes and just choked in silence.

“I need you to set an example amongst the workers,” said the drug lord as he turned to watch the workers.


Turning toward his foreman, the drug lord waved for silence. When he stood closer and stared he gained everyone in that basement’s attention. Every hot, sweat dripping face was turned toward him with eyes that burned with fear. The drug lord loved it and seemed to rejoice.

“I said I need you to pull a worker and bring him here,” continued the drug lord. “I want you to put his hand on this table and chop off his fingers!”

The foreman nodded vigorously.

“Do you know why I keep it 90 degrees or better down here?” he asked.

With fear lodged at the base of his throat, he shook his head from side to side indicating no.

“It weakens their will,” he replied. “When men have weak wills, it’ll be so much easier to break.”

“So grab a worker,” he ordered.

“Yes sir,” the foreman replied quickly.

“No wait,” said the drug lord. “Get him.”

The foreman staggered back against a metal table, unbalanced by the choice the drug lord made. For a moment, he couldn’t understand the reason behind his decision, he could hardly breathe. With all heads snapped around to stare at him, he followed orders.

The young man chosen had dark features, and a smooth skin that glistened because of the perspiration. His expression was a sure sign of fear, but he was ordered to take the punishment for the guilty.

“My cousin couldn’t have done it,” whispered the foreman toward the drug lord’s ear.

“After you remove a finger,” the drug lord started. “He’ll confess to it whether he did it or not.”


“It’s breaking a man’s will,” he explained. “I don’t care about anything else. The workers will see that if they steal, everyone pays. That’s why I have their will weakened in the heat, and when it comes time to pay. I only want their wills broken.”

“But the guilty one may not care.”

“Nah,” the drug lord with a dismissive wave, “all we do here will get to the guilty one. My friend, one way or another, the guilty one will suffer.”

The foreman nodded.

“Cut two fingers off,” ordered the drug lord. “Then get him some medical attention so we all can get back to work.”


“Cousin, I didn’t do it!”

The guy was telling the truth, of course. The foreman felt particularly vulnerable at the sight of his cousin begging for mercy. The foreman grimaced as he closed his eyes and continued with the punishment.

The drug lord returned to the comforts of the air conditioned living room. He was accustomed to sitting long hours in his living room maintaining the air of dignity and supreme authority over his workers. The novelty of catching the guilty in the act had worn out, and he discovered this new method to prove much more satisfying.

“Let them witness this in that 90 degree heat or better,” he said in a half whisper.


If you enjoyed this short story you may like this one:


© 2013 Frank Atanacio

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Comments 30 comments

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Wow, Frank, very intense and dark! Drug Lords are ruthless no doubt about it.

Excellent write. Voted up +++ and sharing

God bless, Faith Reaper

Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Hiya Frank, I second Raith Reaper.. that was indeed intense! The title was interesting that made a reader like me wondered "What da heck is "90 degrees or better"?" Great story telling.. my stomach still feels a little weird. I hate blood, and I could just imagine how petrified the unlucky worker was. I hope he fainted in terror. Voted up. Cheers!

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Valleypoet 3 years ago

The heat was, literally, turned right up for this one Frank...a sadistic drug lord, and a ( now) guilt ridden foreman given a lesson in maintaining loyalty. Another 'no holds barred' piece from the master of suspense. Thanks Frank:-))

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thank you Faith, Rosie2010 and Valleypoet for being the first to try my 90 degrees of heat ...:)

torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

Hi Frank,

I felt that this short story was intense indeed.

I couldn't stop reading until I got to the very end. Can't

wait to read more from you soon.

Voted up and shared with others.

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Business... it's just business. Thank you for this.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thank you Torril for stopping by and thank you too Mhatter :) peace be with you guys

poetvix profile image

poetvix 3 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

Brutal! I suppose, it is really that way. You're description of behavior designed to control really got me. It seems indicative of all those seeking to hold undeserved power over others from drug lords to corrupt governments. I'm looking out the window as I type. I wonder just how many innocent looking houses in my view house such horrors right under my nose. Great work, Frank! You should be writing for TV crime dramas.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

No you should be writing crime tv LOL thanks Poetvix :)

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

I followed the drug lord from the minute he rose to the minute he returned, and hated him the entire time. Some little things you do make the story so real--like having the street address and knowing the temperature in the room. Great (as usual)!

Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 3 years ago from United States

Gosh...these drug lords are so merciless.

Well written, frank

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

Thank you so much MsDora and Ruch for sharing my 90 Degrees

btrbell profile image

btrbell 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

Great job, powerful, intense and hateful! Just the way you planned it!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thank btrbell

tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Frank you can certainly work a story to evoke strong emotions.....I do hope that drug lord gets his comeuppance soon.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks alot tobusiness :) bless you

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Intense--"hot" write!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks so much Audrey

ALUR profile image

ALUR 3 years ago from USA

I love it. It's been a while but I'm glad to happen upon this. Your stories are enticing.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Yes, intense, but macabre too..the horror of having an innocent man's finger cut off! The fear lodged in his throat, staggering back against the metal table...oh Frank you set the stage so well.

Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

justateacher profile image

justateacher 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

You just have a wonderful amount of talent that can grab the reader and make them a part of the action!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

Good to see you again Alur, and thank you for stopping by. Till always nice to see you and Justateacher you're way too generous with your comments bless you guys :) Frank

epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Well I always take this opportunity Frank to say you are one of my favorite writers , anytime, anywhere.

And you own this 'genre' and it always inspires the epi-man, always.

Sending you warm wishes from Colin and his cats at lake erie time 12:57pm

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks so much Epi..bless you

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

Frank, I read your dark stories with adrenaline rush.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

Thanks Vin :)

Express10 profile image

Express10 3 years ago from East Coast

A must read, this should definitely be part of a movie!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks again express10 :)

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Very interesting and quite different. I have decided to never ever work for a drug lord! Good stuff, Frank. :)

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

lol thanks Phdast7

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