When the phone rings after midnight, it is usually bad news. Commissioner Jerry Largent had become used to regularly receiving such calls. Jerry was downstairs reading his stack of grant applications, public works agreements, commendations, zoning text ammendment requests, and other County government paperwork when the lone phone in his home rang three minutes past the beginning of Tuesday morning.
Commissioner Largent scanned the Caller ID screen. He did not recognize the number. It was not Sam the Snakeman who called from his basement lair in P.G. County to talk about his one man sax playing jam sessions in empty stairwells. No, ninety year old Miss Edna was not having another bout with insomnia. John Herriman’s number had not shown up for eight months. His battle with chronic back pain was over. John put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger in January.
The Area Code was unfamiliar to Jerry. He assumed this call was a mis-dial. He was wrong.
Following the second ring, Largent picked up the receiver and recited his standard salutation, “Hello, this is Jerry. Can I help you?”
“Buenos dias, Capitan Ronco.”
There was only one person in the world who might address Commissioner Largent as Captain Grunt in Spanish.
“Carlos, it has been a long time since we’ve spoke. Probably, not long enough.” Largent dryly quipped.
“Jerry, my friend, I owe you three great favors. Should you not grant me the honor of paying you back at least a little bit of the debt I owe you?” countered Carlos.
In another place and time, young U.S. Coast Guard licensed Capt. Jerry Largent operated a snorkel excursion boat from the Coral Reef Park docks in Key Largo, Florida. During a week’s vacation from the Park, Capt. Jerry agreed to navigate the yacht owned by Columbian banana baron Carlos Castaneda through International and Cuban waters.
He knew he was breaking many laws, but he would make enough cash to buy his own party boat for reef fishing. Plus, he would be delivering automatic weapons to Cuban freedom fighters.
A hundred grand for a few days work on the water was a lot of money back then. Capt. Jerry, the would be fisherman, had been hooked. He would not have taken the deal if he had known the trade was not for cash, but cocaine.
And, the deal went terribly wrong.
Under the light of a full moon in a jungle clearing in Cuba, Capt. Jerry shot three Cuban drug runners from the depths of the mangrove underbrush to rescue Carlos in what should have been a one on one transaction.
The first two shots from Jerry’s Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle were clean kills. The initial squeeze of the trigger delivered a head shot. The next quick shot was placed between the back shoulders and through the heart of the second Cuban as he spun around. The third Cuban was hit on the run in the thigh. As he fell, Carlos finished him off with his bare Columbian hands.
Capt. Jerry might have been a naive young man far from his native turf, but he was a good shot.
During the empty handed, high speed run back to the Keys, Carlos opened up to this young man who had saved his life. Carlos told Capt. Jerry about his true enterprises as Columbian drug lord and International hitman. Carlos paid Jerry the money promised and offered him three free hits should he ever need those services.
Jerry walked away with the cash and returned to his day job at the Park. Six months later, he moved north to work in his family sawmill in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. His child to be deserved a better place to grow up. The hundred grand made a nice deposit on a waterfront home on the Patuxent River.
That was thirty years ago. Not a day had gone by that Commissioner Largent did not remember that night.
The thick Columbian accent interrupted Jerry’s trip down memory lane.
“My friend, you have beeen a very busy leetle ronco. I have a request to put a hit on you. It seems you are making some very powerful people very nervous.” said Carlos.
“Yes, I’ve sure upset my share of apple carts, but those zoning decisions that I made were based on fairness for all. The Boss Hogs need to play by the same rulebook.” said Commissioner Largent.
“Oh no, Capitan Ronco. The hombres who wish you to swim with the fishes are not the local barracudas. These are the big sharks. It is your other activities that threaten their livelihoods. Your life is an easy trade-off.” said Carlos.
“But Carlos, who would want me dead other than the local big boys? I don’t have a lot of money. Don’t have any debt to speak of. I live cheaply. Heck, I even drive a home made electric car to save fuel.” stammered Jerry.
Carlos now adopted a far gentler approach to the conversation. “Jerry, please tell me about your electric car.”
“Carlos, ten years ago, I put an electric fork-lift motor into a 1985 Toyota MR-2. A battery bank went in the back trunk and I mounted a gas powered generator under the front hood. It was a plug-in hybrid that I drove around town mostly on battery power and recharged at night. Longer trips which I seldom took required using the generator. I got over a thousand miles per gallon the first year by using mostly electricity.” Commissioner Largent matter of factly stated.
“Over thousand miles per gallon!” Carlos was incredulous. “What did you do with the car?”
“Well, the kids at our local high school wanted an electric car to race so we dropped the genset and doubled the spiral wound lead acid batteries and voltage. We called it the Green Hornet after the school’s mascot. For a couple years, we held the National Electric Drag Racing Association record for fastest high school built car in the United States, but that is old news.” Jerry continued. “My latest adaption of the car has a long range lithium battery pack and a generator that runs on water for extended range.”
“Jerry, did you say your car runs on water?” Carlos questioned.
“Well, I mostly run it on electricity because it is so quiet and maintenance free, but the water fueled genset does make the long hauls possible.” Jerry replied.
Carlos delivered his assessment of Jerry’s situation, “Jerry, you are a public official that has a car that runs on water. No wonder they want you dead!”
Then, Carlos directed Commissioner Largent to get a pad and pencil and take his special number. He said that he would not take the contract from the man who called from a yacht called “Gusher” docked in Ocean Reef Country Club. This was the first favor Carlos could pay back by not contracting the hit on his good friend and life saver Capitan Jerry Ronco.
“Jerry, they will soon come after you with someone else. They will not fail. You must disappear.” counseled Carlos.
“Carlos, before you go, know that Carla is very well and happy.” Jerry said.
“Gracias.” Carlos hung up.
As Commissioner Largent shuffled the papers for the public meeting that morning and pondered his fate in his chair beside the phone, he wondered what might his constituents think if they knew the truth about his wife:
Commissioner Largent was married to the sister of one of Columbia’s most notorious drug dealing hitmen.