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.
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© 2013 Frank Atanacio
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