This is Jack Michaels with a rather chilling interview with Carlos Ramirez at his fortress chateau in the mountains on the West coast of South America where Peru and Chile meet.
It was one of those last minute calls. There was the opportunity to interview someone of great interest. I was on call, the guy in the barrel. I had plans, but when CBS calls there is no refusal. Three hours later I was on a plane going from New York to South America with a list of questions for someone, but I had no idea who this person was. I had questions and a set of instructions that would eventually take me to a boat. My first stop was Rio. From there it was a flight to Paita, Peru. After that travel was by boat across the rough waters of the Pacific to the desolate coast between Peru and Chile.
I first saw the chateau from probably five miles out. It was high in the mountain and yet seemed close to water. It looked like something out of a James Bond movie except darker. A modern version of Castle Dracula. When we finally made it to the pier I was exhausted from fighting the motion of the powerboat. We were met by armed men and I was taken to the elevator at the back of the pier. The doors were set in the stone face of the mountain.
It was an express elevator and my stomach didn’t come back for some time afterward. When I exited the elevator I was met by other armed men who were silent as we moved past exquisite porcelain statutes of six samurai complete with what looked to be real katanas in various strike positions. I was led past paintings and sculptures that gave the place the feel of a museum. Finally my escort stopped and pointed to a set of double doors.
I entered the study cautiously and closed the door behind me. The click of the latch could have been the hammer of a gun being pulled back. A gun like the many I had already seen on the pier, up the express elevator and everywhere else. The sound sent shackles up and down my spine. He was sitting behind his ornately carved mahogany desk, black Armani suit, black shirt, blood red tie. At that moment I could have easily bolted, but being the professional journalist that I am I managed to control myself.
He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. A table to my left had a glass of water next to an exquisitely detailed nineteenth century Moser wine glass with an etched silver and gilt band along the rim.
I sat down, showed him the tape recorder as a courtesy and turned it on as I set it next to an antique pearl handled cork screw.
“Refreshments,” he said as he gestured to the table. “The wine is from sixteenth century France, a Frontignac. If you would like anything else please tell me. I have everything here,” he said with an all inclusive sweep of his arms. “You need only to speak the words and I will call for it.”
“Thank you, I’m fine,” I said. “Shall we get started?”
He responded with a nod of his head.
What is your name?
“That’s a tricky question for me. There have been so many, but for clarity I will focus on this incarnation. Carlos Ramirez.”
I shifted in my chair unconsciously and then tried to hide it. This incarnation? Who in God’s name did they send me to interview?
Please tell us a little about yourself.
“I have been described as a drug lord. Some have said that I am a child molester. Others have accused me of murder. Maybe all of that is true,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. He peered out the window, out at the blue horizon of the Pacific. After a moment he returned his cold dark eyes to me. “But that is only the tip of the iceberg. I am a nonhuman spirit. I have had hundreds of past lives. I have billions in treasure. I’ve left bloody footprints across the pages of history. I remember everything, every woman, every enemy, every treasure, every life stripped away in combat.”
I swallowed hard and then cleared my throat. I tried to bring my focus back to the interview.
Describe your appearance in 10 words or less.
He stood, arms outstretched palms facing me. “Latin. Tall, dark, handsome. Long grey ponytail. Golden teeth,” he said, flashing a brilliant smile as he returned to his chair.
Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?
Moral code? You waist my time with such foolishness,” he said with a dismissive gesture.
“Yes, I am Carlos Ramirez, but the world has known me by other names, such as Cain. I murdered my brother. As Attila the Hun I killed or enslaved perhaps millions as I swept across Asia. I was Caligula. I brought ruin to the Roman Empire with debauchery. Vlad the Impaler. Ah yes, Vlad. I remember looking out across what I had named the Forest of the Impaled.Twenty thousand Turkish prisoners put to the stake. Some had given in to their fate and were hanging limp in their impalement, birds crying, feasting on the dead flesh. Some continued to struggle in vain, trying to free themselves from the stake, fighting off the birds. Others cried out in their agony, too weak to struggle, too gone to resist the birds that went for the softest meal first. I have no need to mention Blackbeard the Pirate, Jack the Ripper or Adolf Hitler, do I? You ask if I have a moral code? I do not,” he said as he leaned forward, placed one hand on his desk and tapped his index finger. “I carry a pearl handled straight razor,” he said as he swept the other arm out from under the desk, index finger extended and stopped just short of my face. I could see his well trimmed, well manicured fingernail as a rock steady finger pointed at me. “I am quite willing to reach across the desk and slit your throat if you show me further disrespect.”
My heart was in my throat. Part of me wanted to leap from the chair and run, but I had to stay calm, detached. I forced myself to relax.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
“My strengths?” he said, flashing his golden smile again. “I am eternal. I have treasure beyond the wildest dreams of the Vatican. I skip from life to life through time. Kill me and I will be reborn as a baby, grow through yet another tiresome childhood, but I remember everything and when I am old enough to hold a knife I will track you down. I will cut you long, wide and deep. You will suffer greatly and when you beg for death I will deny you. That’s all hypothetical, of course,” he said with a flip of his hand. “Who would want to kill someone so charming and handsome?”
“My weaknesses? Ha! Beautiful women,” he said with a sudden gleam in his eyes. “The loves I have had. They are countless. Wars have started over my indiscretions. I have faced firing squad, guillotine, gallows. What are those things to me except a momentary aggravation? I love a woman until she is used up and then I replace her with a young one. The young ones are so eager for my wealth, my power, my drugs. When they reach twenty-five or so they get so fixed in their ways. They think they know everything about a man’s desires. They are difficult to teach. Ah, but the young ones,” he said as he raised his index finger. “So pliable, so eager to be taught.”
Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour.
“It’s the religion of drugs. The desire for my product drives the world as does the need to stop it. It is a constant struggle not unlike the mythical battle between good and evil. We improve our smuggling methods, the dogs of law enforcement improve their detection methods. Back and forth. But now my men have handed me this new smuggling method that will tip the scales in my favor for many years to come. It will be rapturous. Ah, such a gift. The White Lady will stroll the streets of America unseen and she will pile wealth upon wealth. She will give me power over the world.”
Dear God, don’t slip and tell me what it is and then kill me because I know too much.
Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?
“Yes, of course I travel occasionally for pleasure. As a drug lord they come to me here at my chateau. The Spanish discovered the network of caverns going up into the mountains from where the toe of the Andes dips into the Pacific. They built a network of steps and platforms allowing them to move up into the mountain and gain a tremendous sight advantage. The Nazis refined the network with an elevator leading to a grand chateau. I obtained the chateau and refurbished it with modern technology from surveillance and security to an Imax movie theater and video conference room. It is the very heart of my drug cartel. On my walls hang art of the masters,” he said as he gestured to paintings hanging on the walls of the study. “Some of which the world has never seen. Below the chateau, built into the mountain I have a cache of arms that keeps the American CIA from sticking their nose where it does not belong. Below the armory is a museum with a display from every life I have lived. There is little reason for me to travel, but occasionally I do. For a beautiful woman.”
Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why?
“Ah, Roberto. Loyal beyond question,” he said as a smile touched his lips. “He follows orders regardless of anything. My Margareta, my Little One, my concubine. I threw a grand party at the chateau for all of my legal associates. I sent Margareta and her sister on a shopping trip to Paris. The party was the kickoff for a competition to locate a bookstore in the perfect location. I’m going to sell books,” he said and laughed. “Wild Danny was one of the call girls working my party. I hadn’t planned to meet anyone new, but Danny was exceptionally beautiful. Olive complexion, flawless body, long dark hair. Amazing, talented mouth, lips and tongue. Clearly Margareta returning from Paris was going to be a problem. I sent Roberto to Paris. I told him to see that she did not suffer. He carried out my orders even though he liked her. He had to kill one of her security team, but he had no choice. He covered his crime by burning a crowded Paris hotel to the ground. When he returned he dealt with her family, the Roman Empire method of assassination. I rewarded him well for his loyalty.”
My stomach lurched to one side and tried to crawl up my ribcage. I fought to maintain my composure. I was feeling a little lightheaded. I had to pull myself together. Don’t show fear, I told myself.
Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.
“Yes, I suppose I haven’t mentioned much about Jack the Ripper,” he said as he relaxed back into his chair. “I killed those eight Whitechapple whores in London. I left their mutilated bodies to taunt the police. I was tiring of the game. I had murdered over four thousand women across Europe and Asia and nobody was on my trail. The game must be entertaining, no? They still don’t know that I was Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, first son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, grandson to Queen Victoria.”
I don’t know why I didn’t faint on the spot. I was probably too scared to pass out.
What form of politics is dominant in your world?
“Democracy, Monarchy, Theocracy, does it matter? They all try to stop me, stop my product. My submarine was under construction, nearly complete. They destroyed it. They killed my men. They will pay the price for tormenting me for a long time. Even now assassins continue to track judges and politicians. It was Eduardo who developed the new process for me. Ah, I was livid about my submarine, but Eduardo gave me the gift that will help me forget.
“It was Santino, the one in charge of security, who allowed the government dog to infiltrate my inner circle. The filthy mongrel led to the destruction of my submarine. He was strapped into my chair, begging for death, but I denied him,” he said, raising his index finger again for emphasis. “I stabbed more holes with the hat pin, enlarged the holes with the salted rattail file. Oh, that bastard suffered. When I tired of the work I slit his throat slowly with a very dull knife. Santino paid the price for his failure, too, but not then. Everyone knew he was under a death sentence, but I took my time fulfilling it. I waited patiently and then, when the time was right I made an example of him in front of my inner circle.
“All of my men clearly understand my expectations. If the alarms sound alerting of an attack, my men come, draw weapons from the armory and kill the intruders. It doesn’t matter how the attack comes. We have pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, RPG’s, Stinger missiles for aircraft, TOW missiles for armor plated vehicles. They have a fine choice of weapons to select from. Anyone who fails to arm themselves and fight dies by my hand. Summary execution. Bullet to the brain,” he said as he pointed his gun shaped hand to the back of his head.
A cold chill went down my back and kept going. I had goose flesh everywhere. Goose flesh and a gnawing fear that I was in great danger.
Within your civilization what do you think is the most important discovery/invention?
“The history of drug smuggling is evolution in motion. Survival of the fittest. Fast cars, fast boats, small aircraft flying under the radar. Eventually the CIA and DEA always improves their detection methods. In response we get better at what we do. Hollowed out logs, secret compartments, drums with false bottoms,” he said waving his hand. “Candles,” he said, raising his index finger. “We once mixed liquid cocaine with melted wax and made candles. The candles were melted at the destination point and the liquid cocaine recovered. All of these methods have eventually fallen to improved detection methods. Ah, but now Eduardo has invented a process that will be secure for years to come. Such genius! Eduardo, always thinking, always improving. The bad blood between him and Roberto was distressing. Roberto loved his little sister and Eduardo took her into bad company and got her killed. It made no difference to him that Eduardo tracked down every man involved and made them suffer before they died. Roberto pleaded with me to let him gut Eduardo, but I refused. I continued to refuse. After the debacle with my submarine I demanded a new method of smuggling. I forced them to work together and see the result? Oh, how I wish I could share the details of this brilliant gift, but the CIA might read this interview”, he said and laughed, flashing his golden smile. “I made them work together and they produced a masterpiece. You see. I make men better, no?
“They make me better, too,” he said as he leaned forward. “They make me happy. Now I will be able to ship product right under the noses of the CIA and DEA. They could see my shipments and never suspect,” he said flashing that dazzling smile again.
Honestly, I was afraid of Carlos. I don’t know if he was who or what he claimed. I can only tell you that everything about Carlos Ramirez was terrifying. His manner, his coal black eyes, his golden teeth. I feared I would come to an unspeakable end, fed to the fish, but he remained a gentleman. He offered to show me his museum, but I’m afraid I would have been completely unnerved to the point that I might have fainted. I declined, but I didn’t have the option with the armory. Never before have I seen that many weapons, that much ammo in one place.
A few minutes later we were back on the elevator, plummeting toward the bottom. The water rocket that had ferried me to his fortress was waiting with his man at the helm, engine running, boat rocking with the waves. I was happy to board it, to brace myself as the engines came to life. I looked back once. He was still standing there on the end of the pier watching us. For an instant I feared that it was all a ploy and that the boatman was going to take me back.
He didn’t. I made it back to Paita and then back to Rio. I’m back in New York now, back in my condo, out on my fourteenth floor terrace overlooking Central Park.
My contact with Carlos Ramirez left me with a strange emptiness, something I couldn’t quite describe. I gazed down at the park, the little figures going about their normal day and it hit me. I was never going to live in the same world again.
I’m going to San Diego over the fourth. I’ll feel better when I see Mary, hold her in my arms. The others in our surfing family will help in my recovery, too, but I’m afraid the ship has sailed on completely normal. Completely normal is no longer possible. Not any more. Not after that.
This is Jack Michaels with CBS news signing off.
May 17, 2010
Book(s) in which this character appears plus links
Carlos Ramirez is from The Bookseller
The journalist Jack Michaels is from Reincarnology, a novel nearing completion.
C. Robert Cales
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.
The Bookseller ASIN: B005KMBHAK
A special note from the author:
I have some characters who are very upset with me because they think the interview should have gone to them. What can I say? I made a management decision. That works with most of them, but not with George Saunders, my rare book dealer. He is livid. He’s demanding equal time. I can usually reason with these people, but when they present a valid argument I’m usually screwed. George wants equal time, pointing out that it was his bookstore Carlos wanted to acquire. He also pointed out that of all my characters he is the one who has gone though the greatest change. Yeah, I know exactly what he’s talking about, but there are some things I shouldn’t share with you, at least not right now.
So, if you’re interested in me sending Jack Michaels to interview George I will, but you should ask so I know you’re interested.