LATIN KINGS

June 14, 2017

Mateo Luis Lamar’s 1964 Cadillac DeVille cruised down the SR2. In the car was one of the many women that he often had around, a young child, and Mateo himself. If you took Mateo in quickly, he seemed to be gentleman. Today, for example, he was outfitted in loose, but neatly pressed, light wash jeans and a white shirt, the top four buttons undone. On his feet he wore a pair of Nike Cortez, a size too large, just as he liked. His feet needed to breathe. His thick hair had just begun its slide into gray, beginning at the temples. It was trimmed perfectly - straight across, chin length. Although Mateo worried about the inevitable loss of his hair (all of his mother’s male relatives were bald by the age of 60), he didn’t need to. He wouldn't live that long.

Mateo often came home drunk. Mateo had hit Antonio only once or twice. Only.  This unkindness and violence was enough to plant hatred in the child’s mind, in the child who was now resting peacefully in the back seat. If Mateo knew one thing about Antonio, it was that the SR2 put him fast asleep. After all, it isn’t called the ‘scenic route’ for nothing, he thought to himself. Mateo glanced at Antonio in the rear mirror and felt deep affection for him. His knappy hair hung over his small face, a curl lifting up and away with each exhale. A small pool of saliva collected near the corner of Antonio’s mouth and wet the seat. Mateo didn’t quite feel love, but he kept Antonia around and sometimes felt warmed by his presence. He was a, “Pequeño culo inteligente,” as Mateo put it. Mateo also knew Antonia was afraid of him and in a morbid and disturbing way, it made him feel powerful. Macho. Who would have guess that the, “Rey de Los Angeles” would have masculinity issues? As Mateo’s car cruised along through the mountains, Mateo realized how grateful he was for the life he lived. He was born into wealth, just as his son would be. He lead a gang - among the most powerful on the West Coast - and he had anything a man could want: beautiful women, unlimited cash, and fast cars. Muy contento.

By the time they arrived home, it was just past eight o'clock. Mateo scratched his oversized, but well trimmed, moustache as he held a gently snoring Antonio in his arms. Mateo had ditched the chick a mile or so back so that she couldn’t trace him, even if she was brave enough to. He set the kid down on the couch and prepared for bed. He went to sleep with a bottle of Macallan, as usual.

Mateo’s neglect for Antonio increased as the child grew older. Born of this neglect was an unquenchable need for Mateo’s acceptance and, more, for his approval. Antonio acted out to elicit attention, it didn’t matter whether the behavior was good or bad as long as it got the result he needed. Mateo was in his mid-thirties now. His drug trafficking distribution business was thriving as were the Latin Kings. When the Kings reached Los Angeles, there were one or two ‘mishaps’ between the Kings and the Southside Crips, but since Mateo had arranged a meeting to discuss turf distribution, things had settled down. His best guess was that the gangs had just never sat down together at a formal meeting, to smooth things over. Usually ‘turf distribution meetings’ meant a drive by or a shootout in the local mall parking lot. Mateo learned that as long as he and his cartel stayed out of central LA and refrained from wearing too much red or blue, they would be fine. That was, until Antonio’s sixth birthday.

Mateo was driving as always, with a fine young woman beside him and with Antonio in the back seat. It was one of those Los Angeles days when you couldn’t help but look for a film crew and cameraman or, at least, a small trademark symbol in the bottom corner. The weather was pitch perfect. It hit all the right emotional notes. The sun was high and lemon yellow, the sky was light blue, the air clean and crisp, with the scent of lavender. Mateo switched lanes, preparing to take the long route on the SR2 as he always did. He had a Marlboro parked in the corner of his mouth. A group of young men dressed in blue from head to toe sauntered over to the car. The youngest, who looked like he could be eleven years-old, opened the car door. “Out.” Was all this kid said to Mateo, the well dressed and coiffed tanned man seated in the driver’s seat. A carjacking, ok. Not unusual for the Crips. “Mi Amigo”, said Mateo. I think you have the wrong idea. Just like that, the kid pulled a Taurus .38 from a spot between his belt and skin. The piece caught on his belt, giving Mateo just enough time to grab his ‘16 from beneath his seat. He let off a spray of bullets, easily hitting the kid who stumbled back against the side of a building, hunching over the pool of blood which was quickly forming beneath him. The bullet had hit a major artery, that was clear. Blood was exiting his neck like a fountain, bright red against the blue sky. Mateo considered for a moment, how surprised he always was by the hidden stuff inside human beings. The boy would slip into a coma and die a week later, with his mother and father by his side. Mateo knew that’s how it would go and it did. The other gang members, probably in their twenties, took off but not before shooting some sizeable holes in Mateo’s beloved Deville. Mateo stomped down on the gas pedal and sped away. Antonio’s heart was still racing when they reached the highway. But he kept very quiet in the back, watching and listening to everything. He saw the lamp poles speed by and the mountains in the distance, and began settling down. Out of confusion and exhaustion, Antonio finally fell asleep. The Lamar family was a family of habit.

THIRTEEN YEARS LATER

Antonio awoke from a light sleep. He stepped out of bed, lightheaded and dizzy. His head pulsed with pain every time his heart beat. He scratched the overgrown neck beard which seemed to have grown overnight. He went to the bathroom, walking over the familiar black and white square tiles which were always cold first thing in the morning. He did his business. Leaning against his doorframe, he surveyed the lofty apartment he called home. Couple bottles strewn around the room and the lampshade was broken, but overall minimal damage. He took a painkiller for his head went back to sleep.
Four or five hours later Antonio, now nineteen, was awakened from his slumber.  “Ugh.” He groaned, rolling out of bed. His headache was better, but when he stood up, his head still pounded and the light hurt his eyes. He felt a little nauseated. The telephone next to his cabinet was ringing. Nobody called to wake Antonio from sleeping, if they knew what was good for them. Antonio calls you, you do not call Antonio. “What?” He asked. “Antonio. My brother. How are you?”
“What do you want?”, Antonio said curtly. “It’s your father. Mateo--” At this point, the man on the other end of the phone paused. It was Cousin Jamon, Antonio’s second cousin and a very close friend of Mateo’s. “He passed.” There was another pause, this time on Antonio’s end of the line. The pause was followed with a familiar noise - the click of the landline being placed into its cradle.
Everyone knew that his father was a touchy subject for Antonio and everyone knew that breaking the news to Antonio would be difficult. But, then, it wouldn’t easy for any of the Latin Kings. A major gang leader, shot dead in the parking lot of a fast food joint? A strange occurrence, to say the least. And the note that was left, thought Alberto, better known as Jamon, due to his piggish features. The note was left on a neon yellow post-it which was pasted to Mateo’s forehead. “Hope he enjoyed his damn burger.” read the note. Minutes later, Antonio received a call from David Mallace, from the LAPD. David’s father had been chief of police and had helped the Kings take down the Bloods during Mateo’s father’s rule. Similar to real kings, the Latin type often ruled in dynasties. A similar phone call occurred, except this time Antonio got the details. His father was shot dead in the parking lot outside Mike’s Burgers. Mallace’s guess was that it was an inside job. A Latin King had killed his father, Mateo. Someone was a traitor. Someone would pay.

ONE YEAR LATER

  Antonio, now known as Brother Antonio, nursed a bottle of Corona. He sat on the beach, watching a crab trying to escape the incoming and outgoing waves. He squinted at the mountains, which were now green because it was summer. He remembered riding in the backseat of his father’s car when he was a kid and briefly felt comforted. For the last year or so, there was little peace for Antonio, who had become an alcoholic. He now had trouble falling asleep without a bottle, his preference being a fine whiskey. As I said, a family of habit.


FIVE MONTHS LATER

RING RING RING!
“Antonio?”
(No Response)
“I’m pregnant.”
(Click of phone being put down and dial tone)
(Family of habit)


ONE MONTH LATER
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
ANOTHER WIN FOR LAPD AS LA GANG LEADER IS TAKEN DOWN
Early this morning, the LAPD stormed the house of Antonio Lamar, a key member of the malicious Latin Kings. In an interview with chief of police David Mallace, he said, “We have been working hard toward taking gangs like the Latin Kings off of the streets. Our first win came when we took down Lamar’s father.  I can confidently say that the Kings are off the streets for good. Regarding the many other gangs in our city, I can’t be as certain.”






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