THE ENVELOPE

Bruno Carlos Santos

Ramon was walking fast, the soles of his expensive Italian shoes striking hard against the rocky pavement, almost at a desperate pace. At that time, even for a pimp like him, Mouth of Garbage would be too dangerous.

This night was especially dark. The moon and stars were shrouded by the heavy rain clouds. After looking in all directions, Ramon settled in front of a trash can near the opening of an alley. He took care not to
get too close.

“Do you have the report?” a female voice said from within the alley.

Ramon’s hands shook. He knew the word report wasn’t good news. The fear rushed through his veins, pumped by his almost audible heartbeat, and Ramon tried to calm himself. He had only a few options, and to run was unlikely to be the best one. If the woman in the mist was carrying a handgun, two squeezes of the trigger and Ramon would be lying on the pavement. One more squeeze to make sure, and that would be it.

He wondered whether talk would be the best option. Ramon had always been a skilled talker, especially with women. He had a gift of convincing people to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and in the fashion he wanted. Not a surprise — he had become one of the most successful pimps in Sao Paulo. But that was a very different scenario. Even though he couldn’t see the woman, by the way she talked, it was easy for him to tell she was a far cry from some teenage crackhead wannabe soap opera star.

Her voice was feminine but firm and cold. It sounded as if she could gun down a group of guys and then order a pizza. Thoughts rushed through his head, coming and going, ideas and even more ideas, but then the silence was broken once more by the woman’s voice.

“Do you have the report?”

“I- I do…”

“Good.”

“I’ll bring it to you…”

“No.”

Once again Ramon was confused. If she didn’t want the report, why ask? Or else maybe he’d been told to come to the alley with no intention of allowing him to explain, or to justify himself. Maybe he’d already been given a death sentence. Ramon closed his eyes and started praying, but it didn’t last long; he was suddenly interrupted, not by a bullet piercing his heart, but by the woman’s voice once more:

“Let me see the report.”

He opened his eyes and was stunned by the beauty standing before him: Wavy hair, full lips, and eyes the color of sapphires, seeming even brighter due to the dark eyeliner around them. She smirked as she read the report.

“Is that all?”

“Y-yes…”

“You know, the office really thinks you should lay low for a while, you see.”

Ramon was silent.

“There is too much heat, and some of the gentlemen who are financing the trades can’t afford the risk of being exposed. If one were to fall, three dozen would follow, and for each one of them, another three dozen… maybe four. It is easy to escalate.”

“I understand.”

“Actually, you don’t have to. You’re only expected to follow orders, and that was something you have already failed to do. If was up to me, there would be no need for reports of any sort. I like things simple, even when dealing with huge operations.”

Ramon didn’t say a word.The woman took a huge envelope from her bag and handed it to Ramon.

“Take this and don’t open it until you get home. Inside it, you will find further instructions. Follow them strictly this time. There is no room for interpretation.”

Ramon stared at her.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now go.”

Ramon felt a sense of relief as he began to walk away from the woman, even though with each step he feared he would hear the sound of gunfire, accompanied by the piercing bullet blasting its way through his lungs or perhaps the back of his skull… But it didn’t happen. Ramon went on walking towards home, and when he finally reached his doorstep, he took a deep breath as he turned the knob.

“Mr. Martinez? Mr. Ramon Martinez?” The voice was male, deep and with a small-town accent. The man was trying to be polite, but there was a note of hatred and disgust in the way he sounded.

“Yes…?” replied Ramon as he turned to face his interlocutor: A middle-aged, bearded man in worn-out clothes and a stained suede jacket. His eyes were filled with hatred, and he said no more. Ramon was about to ask his name, but before he could say a word, the bearded man raised a revolver and fired.

“Oh, God…”

The first shot struck Ramon in the lower stomach, piercing through the envelope, lodging in his bowels. Before Ramon’s brain could even process the pain, two more bullets hit him in the chest, and as he tried to turn and seek refuge behind his door, a fourth bullet struck him in the spine. He fell, and as he crawled towards an illusory safety, coughing blood in the process, he heard one final shot and then everything went black.

***
The bearded man was now in handcuffs. He hadn’t tried to run away; in fact, after shooting Ramon in the back of the skull, he sat down by his side and stayed there until the police arrived. The only motion he made was to take Ramon’s envelope and open it. It was filled with pictures, but no one among those who witnessed the murder had any idea what the pictures were about.

“Hands where I can see them!” yelled a policeman, pointing his gun at the perp, who raised his hands, letting the pictures fall as the other cop came closer to make the arrest.

“Oh, God…” muttered the officer as he saw one of the pictures, stained in blood: A girl in her teens, no more than fourteen, covered in bruises and being abused by half a dozen men. Francisco Silva had always kept his face clean-shaven, but after his only daughter, Carla, left their small room in the favela late at night he got where he wouldn’t shave for months. She always had so many dreams, sadly, they were too big for a girl from Heliopolis favela.

It’s true that she was a pretty young girl, and after having her ego bloated by the neighbors and her classmates, she began to nurture a dream of becoming a Soap Opera star.
“Life is way more complicated than that. It isn’t always about how pretty or talented you are,” Francisco told her many times, but she felt frustrated instead of trying to understand her father.

“He’s only trying to hold me back, to keep me down. I won’t die in this tiny stinky house in these damned favelas!” said Carla to her friend Jessica as she packed her things and left. Where would she go? It didn’t matter: She was pretty, talented, and soon enough luck would smile on her.

***

But it didn’t. Even so, Carla was too fierce to go back home, and to survive she did things she never thought she could. After three months of living on the streets, she was picked by a pimp named Ramon ‘Papai’ Martinez. He was viciously abusive towards her and often forced her into taking on as many as four clients at once, but at least she had a roof over her head and didn’t have to give herself to the homeless in exchange for a slice of bread and a half-eaten chicken leg.

Things went on like this until Ramon decided to expand the business: He was going to smuggle girls from Eastern Europe into South-America. In order to do so, he needed to win the grace of two Russian mobsters.

Ramon then set up a party with three girls, one of whom was Carla. The mobsters bought their henchmen to join the fun, and most of them had their eyes on her. At a certain point, high on crack, Carla tried to resist, and was beaten and raped, and then beaten again. This cycle lasted all night long.

By dawn, Carla was half dead. Pictures were taken to appease the sadistic traits of one of the mobsters, and then she was thrown into a dumpster still breathing. That didn’t last long. Ramon had lost one of his girls, but he now was part of a far more profitable trade.

***

Time went by, and one fateful day Ramon forgot to pay someone he should have paid off at one of the immigration offices and brought some heat on the low levels of the operation. Due to that, a report was required: He was expected to clean the up mess and to bring proof of having done so. At least that was what the was told.

In fact, the mobsters were not earning as much as they first thought and it was time to start, literally, firing the low management staff.

The one who was assigned to the kill was Sanja, a stone-cold killer with an inner talent for leaving no evidence. Sanjathought Ramon wasn’t worth a bullet nor the pain in the ass that would come from the disposal of his body at Tietê River, so she came up with a better plan.

***

“I know what happened to your daughter.” The voice was feminine but firm and cold. It was Sanja at a payphone. She had managed to track down Mary’s father, and posing as a mother whose daughter was also taken by Ramon, she called him.

“Is she all right…?” asked Francisco, even though deep inside, he knew the answer: The streets take no prisoners and Carla had been out for almost a year now.

“…I’m afraid she’s not…”

The plan was in motion now; Sanja had only to fill an envelope with the photos of Carla’s bruised body and give it to Ramon.

“Take this and don’t open it until you get home…”

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