Guatemala City, 1990
No one wanted to believe the horrible stories—the silent unmentionable rumors of kidnapped children murdered for their organs. What kept popping up around kitchen tables, inside coffee shops and on every popular radio talk shows were the child abductions that had been escalating in alarming numbers around the world. Large clusters of infants all taken within a blink of an eye. It was happening in some of the most exotic locales, those vacation resorts where families believed they were safe. It was not being committed for ransom, but for another reason that the authorities did not want to talk about. The innocent, the trusting young souls were now missing without a trace. Left behind were the their grieving parents, crying for help and receiving mostly shrugs of shoulders, lots of excuses, and no leads or evidence, leaving a cold trail to follow. In some cases, the authorities in a fit of desperation to solve their case accused the hysterical parents of the crime, making them the primary suspects. This folly only caused the already cold trail to become colder.
The unsolved kidnappings had the international media in uproar, the American media salivating over the sensationalism that such a horrible story could create, and the United States government trying to crawl under a rock.
The frustrating problem for the authorities and the parents were that the kidnappings, especially those of infants, were not easy to prevent. The human trafficking cartels were efficient, ruthless and merciless. Resorts with camp programs or with baby-sitting facilities were the most vulnerable. Most counselors and babysitters were on the cartels payroll, allowing the kidnappers enough time and miles to hide the children before anyone knew they were missing. Parents returning from an all-day scuba or snorkeling tours, or a bus tour were usually the first to notice that their child had gone missing.
The local authorities were baffled and ill equipped to begin a proper investigation. However, it was not until it affected American children on vacation in Guatemala, Central America, a country that had always been a safe haven for Americans, that it received the attention of the President of the United States and the full resources of the FBI.
At the direction of President Hollister, the Director of the FBI had sent three FBI agents to Guatemala. Their sole purpose was to observe and to investigate the unsubstantiated rumors about human organ thefts that had been circulating about Central America since 1980. In the mean time, the State Department created a memo, filled with what little facts it had in an effort to calm the media.
Inside the White House, the president’s Chief of Staff and Press Secretary, as well as the president, were on edge. His re-election was soon approaching and he needed to show that he could protect Americans while outside the United States. The news stories of kidnapped babies, U.S. citizens, from their parents, while on vacation in Guatemala, had begun to make prime-time news. The president wanted his own answers, not the ones he was getting from a corrupt third world country and its crooked police and politicians.
There was a primary suspect, but he was a powerful and rich man with many friends in the Guatemalan Government and no one wanted to accuse him of anything unless they had solid evidence that would stick. Frederick Ramirez, the Godfather of human trafficking, was not a man you accused of anything or you would turn up missing, buried somewhere deep inside the lush Guatemalan jungle.
The FBI had on good authority that Ramirez was now focusing on infants, healthy American babies, and selling their organs like any car theft ring would sell car parts. It was fast, more profitable than illegal adoption, and untraceable. With a lot of arm-twisting, the President of Guatemala agreed to a joint operation to capture Ramirez in the act and extradite him to the United States for trial.
FBI Agents Jack Seymour, Robert Evans and Ted Blanchard were the president’s advisory task force sent to stop Ramirez at any cost.
American business interests were in a panic, as tourism was down fifty percent. The primary objective was to put out the fire of fear so business could go on as usual. It was either an urban legend or the truth and if it were at all possible, it would become just a scary legend like vampires who thirsted for human blood. Guatemala was a country filled with superstition and witchcraft and the present administration along with the tourist industry was preparing the propaganda that would promote this third world country with its amusement park scary house of horrors. However, that would only happen after Frederick Ramirez was no longer a threat. One way or the other, Ramirez and his cartel was about to become history, as long as the corrupt Guatemalan government cooperated.
The day had come and the Guatemalan Police had four suspects. The three FBI agents were staring through a one-way mirror watching a man clothed in nothing more than his underwear, handcuffed to a small metal chair. A bare light bulb hung from the ceiling, dangling only a foot above the prisoner’s head. The glare of the light reflected off the suspect’s battered face, his fresh moist blood soaked up by the dried cakey blood from the previous beatings he had endured. Sitting on a second metal chair, three feet away, was another prisoner—he looked tired, but untouched. Fear was etched on his face knowing his turn was soon coming.
The interrogator continued hitting his prey with a broom handle, yelling at him to tell him where Frederick Ramirez’s next kidnapping would take place. Special Agent Seymour had Intel that these two men were contractors of the Ramirez Cartel and they had critical information. After five more strikes from the broom handle the man’s head slumped forward, leaving his chin resting on his chest.
“You piece of shit,” bellowed the interrogator in Spanish. He lifted the man’s head and let it drop forward. “He’s not going to talk,” he laughed as he pulled his gun from his holster. Without hesitating or showing emotion, he put a bullet into the side of the man’s head; the explosion knocked the chair and the limp body to the floor. It laid by the feet of the horrified second prisoner.
FBI Special Agent Robert Evans jumped to his feet trying to get into the interrogation room, but Special Agent Seymour stopped him. “This is how they do it here in Guatemala. Our orders are to not interfere.”
“Bull-shit,” Evans shouted. “We’ve just witnessed a murder and you’re telling me to look the other way?” Evans was a by-the-book rookie agent with no flexibility to think outside the box of regulations and rules he had sworn to uphold. He joined the FBI believing that they were the righteous arm of the law. He would accept nothing less from his partners.
Seymour put his arm around the young agent. “You need to stay focused. Remember why we are here and what our mission is. That man,” he pointed at the window, his index finger tapping the glass hard, “that animal, that piece of scum,” Seymour had to catch his breath, as his emotions were about to explode, “has participated in the kidnapping of thousands of young children, killing their mothers and fathers without batting an eyelash. It could be my son they had taken.” Seymour took a deep breath letting his emotions subside and in a soft calm whisper asked. “Are you a religious man?”
Evans incredulous expression startled Seymour. “What do my religious views have to do with any of this?”
Seymour was now losing patience with Evans. “Everything. Men like this need a taste of biblical justice: an eye for an eye. Anyway, what would a U.S. court really do to him? Making him an example for the next prisoner is very important to proper interrogation. Look at the guy; his bare feet are resting in his warm urine. Next it will be his feces if he doesn’t tell us what we want to know. If we can get Frederick Ramirez, catch him in the act, then, all of this was worth it. We need evidence or Ramirez will never serve any prison time. There will always be collateral damage when fighting the scum of the world.”
Evans broke free of Seymour’s hold and went back to his seat noticeably upset, a scowl etched on his face. It really didn’t matter what Seymour said to him. His morals would not allow him to condone this degree of torture and murder. As a rookie, he just had to sit back and watch.
Special Agent Ted Blanchard looked at him and shrugged his shoulders. Blanchard was a seasoned agent, with a heart made of stone. He didn’t believe in the American justice system. He had seen too many murderers, serial killers and child molesters get off and what was happening to the prisoners on the other side of the glass barrier gave him goose bumps. He took another bite from his steak sandwich, noticeably unmoved by the blood and splattered brain matter in the interrogation room. “It will get easier little buddy,” he said while he chewed.
The interrogator checked his watch and then looked sternly at the other prisoner. Evans could tell the interrogator was running out of time and patience. “You need to tell me what I want to know…now,” the interrogator said calmly, “I’d just as soon shoot you…you worthless piece of human refuse and show your body to your friends in the next room. One of you will talk to me, it doesn’t really matter who,” he said placing the barrel of his gun again the man’s temple. The man began begging for his life and started telling the interrogator everything he needed to know about Frederick Ramirez’s next abduction.
The next day, Jack Seymour took both of his agents aside. He knew that they all needed to get on the same page before they left to stop what was about to happen to three young girls in a small village outside of Guatemala City. “If we don’t put a stop to this now, one day it will cross our borders and our children, our families will be at risk,” he said somberly. “Remember, we’re here because American children are missing in this god-forsaken country and it needs to be stopped.”
Blanchard just rolled his eyes, trying to chew the last of his sandwich. “Evan’s you need to get used to this or look for a desk job back at the Hoover building. It’s different in the field, especially the rules we have to live with.
“Oh, fuck off, both of you.” Evans exploded with disgust. He was not over what he had witnessed through the interrogation window and didn’t believe he’d ever get over it. “I didn’t sign up for torture and murder. We’re no better than the man we’re trying to stop.”
Blanchard interrupted Seymour before he could respond. “Sometimes we have to get down to the level of the criminal. Nothing else in the end will work. Death’s the only justice men like him understand. If these guys kill Ramirez’s entire family and everyone associated with him, I’d feel a lot better. In fact, I’d feel a lot safer. These people have long memories and if you don’t cut off the snakes head and the head of its entire family, it will one day, when you least expect it, give you a poisonous bite. I’m looking out for my future and whatever family I might want to have,” Blanchard said seriously.
Seymour jumped in before Evan’s could open his mouth, raising his hand like a traffic cop. “The statistics are staggering. Over four thousand young boys and girls have come up missing throughout Central America over the last three years and it points to the Ramirez Cartel.” He looked Evans straight in the eye, carefully thinking of how to say what needed to be said. “We’re here as advisors only. Policy doesn’t allow us to interfere with what this government does or how it goes about policing their problems. Guatemala has been notorious for making political prisoners disappear for the last two hundred years and murderous criminals are no exception. Let’s do our jobs so we can get back home to our politically correct way of managing our justice system,” Seymour said patronizingly.
Today, traveling on a dirt road to the countryside, the Guatemalan secret police would be showing the FBI how they handle a brutal murderer in their country. If the information from the informant was accurate, this would be the first time the Ramirez Cartel would be caught in the act. The word was that this was a training mission for Frederick’s son Enrique and everyone prayed that the Godfather would be there also.
The FBI task force did not have orders to capture Frederick or his son, but by all indications from the Guatemalan Secret Police, that was not going to be their goal either. Seymour could hear the nervous buzz in the Guatemalan police’s voices and understood that the coroner would be the only one called to clean up their mess.