Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Cartel 7: Illuminati

Roundtable of Bosses

The Cartel (Volume 7)

Ashley & JaQuavis

St. Martin's Griffin

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

CHAPTER 1


The beautiful skyline of Kolkata, India, astonished as they all stared out of their windows. The tall buildings’ structures were advanced and bright lights lit up the sky as they prepared to descend for landing. Carter looked on in amazement, never having seen anything so beautiful. The scenery reminded him of New York at night back home in the States, which was shocking to him. Never would he have thought the country could be so modern and picturesque.

Everyone was well rested, except Carter. He had stayed up the majority of the flight, wondering what he had been sucked into. This some movie shit, he thought to himself after thinking about the tactics they went through to recruit him and his counterparts. Ghost stepped from the cockpit, where he and the pilot were during the flight.

“Good evening, everyone. We are approaching the city of Kolkata. This is where my team of scientists are located and waiting on your arrival. They are currently duplicating the drug we call Lolita, which is derived from the Rebe flower, as I explained before. This will guarantee the well-being of your lives, kids, and grandchildren. Generational wealth is inevitable. Welcome to the future,” he said smoothly just before he disappeared back into the cockpit and closed the door behind himself. It seemed as if he disappeared before any of them had the chance to ask questions or reply. As always Ghost was smooth and mysterious and his persona and his name matched perfectly. His ghostlike characteristics gave him a mystique and essence that were unfamiliar to them all. His ability to convince successful drug lords to come together and not create a hierarchy or totem pole was brilliant.

“Is that nigga smooth like that all the time?” Brick asked, breaking the quiet tension within the aircraft. Everyone chuckled and it broke the ice among the group of strangers. Brick was a heavier set man with a dark, full beard and raspy voice. He wore dark Versace shades to hide his eyes as he displayed his smile and looked around. Small chatter began as all the different personalities began to discuss their new venture.

* * *

“You think this shit is really legit?” a man asked, as he put the question on the floor for discussion. He wore a well-tailored shirt with the tie slightly loosened. The cut of his pants was perfect and obviously costume fitted. His slim frame and broad shoulders were athletic and his salt-and-pepper beard suggested he was a gentleman of a certain age.

“Shit, it has to be. Our meeting was in the fucking Vatican,” Millie said as she emphasized the sacred venue that their initial meeting was in.

Carter Jones remained silent as he sat in the back of the aircraft and listened closely to the open conversation. Not being the one for small talk, he was interested in seeing what was to come from all of this. He had other things on his mind, such as his wife, Miamor, his son, and the cartel organization as a whole. He decided to keep mum, so he could feel everyone out before engaging in the fraternizing. He did notice one thing, though: the older of the two ladies, Anari, was sitting back listening as well. She didn’t say too much and they kept locking eyes with each other, both trying to figure the other out. Only time would tell the relationship that these two would incur. Friend or foe? both wondered, feeling the power that the other one held. It was something about a powerful person that was radiant and they both felt it.

The aircraft landed smoothly on the private runway and five black SUVs were awaiting their arrival—one for each person. They all stepped off the jet to a red carpet that led them to the row of cars. Each door was open and a chauffeur stood there, all of them wearing black suits and shades. They all were of Indian descent, hired guns by Ghost and his board members. Ghost stood at the top of the plane’s stairs as all the bosses reached the bottom.

“Your personal cars are waiting for you and will take you to your next location,” Ghost said loudly so everyone could hear him loud and clear.

* * *

“Right this way, ma’am,” one of the chauffeurs said to Anari as she was the first to get escorted to her vehicle. Everyone else followed suit and got into the luxury truck that had champagne and fruit awaiting them in the backseat. Once everyone was secure in their car, they exited in a single-file line, heading to a resort where they would rest for the night. After a short ride, they arrived at a private estate that was surrounded by a lake. It was in the hills of Kolkata where the air was moist, but warm. As they all stepped out of the cars the huge castlelike mansion was before them. The beautiful gray brick mansion had a wraparound driveway that seemed to be the size of a football field. The gargoyle statues on top of the castle gave it a dark, Gothic appearance. The moon seemed as if it was shining directly onto the historic place for their viewing pleasure.

“Wow. This shit keeps getting better and better,” Brick said as he stepped out of the car and nodded his head in approval of the palace. One by one, they all stepped out and stood side by side. Ghost was standing in the driveway, waiting for them. He began to walk toward them and stood front and center. They all were surprised he had made it there before them and they never even saw him get off the plane. Ghost stood with his arms crossed and his legs shoulder width apart as he waited until all eyes were on him before he said a word.

“Welcome to your place of residence for the next two weeks.” Ghost unleashed a small grin. “Allow me to show the place,” he said just before he led them in. A doorman was standing at the door in a tuxedo awaiting their entry. As they filed into the house, the pleasant smell of flowers invaded their nostrils and shiny marble floors were at their feet. The high ceilings and space were high-end and luxurious. The porcelain staircase and handcrafted podiums were marble and added a cherry on top of the already astonishing place. The mansion was immaculate to say the least.

Ghost continued to host the bunch, intoning, “This was the great emperor’s home and this will be our haven on this brief trip. So, rest up guys. Get rest and relax—tomorrow I will be taking you to the lab so you can see how everything is made firsthand. Your rooms are assigned to each one of you individually and your name is on the door.” Ghost straightened his tie and looked at each of them in their eyes. His strong jawline and impeccable posture made him look presidential and solid.

“Oh, how could I forget? Each of you has a personal masseuse, for your tension or whatever stresses you guys need worked out of your body,” Ghost said while growing a smirk on his face. He then clapped twice, loudly, which echoed throughout the home. Within seconds a line of women appeared at the top of the stairs, all of them wearing sultry lingerie and standing with a model’s posture. They all smiled and were of Indian descent. All of them were different sizes, but equally beautiful.

“Fellas, the ladies will help you get that tension out,” Ghost said as he smiled and winked at the guys. “And of course, for the ladies…” Ghost clapped again and two well-built, shirtless men appeared in the line as well. Both had perfect smiles and tans that were sun kissed.

“Whoa, homeboy. I think you have me mistaken,” Millie said as she stepped forward, showing off her fit body. She wore a casual sweat suit, but her curves were still noticeable. “I don’t play on that side, feel me?” she said, letting her sexual orientation be known. Everyone began to chuckle at her bluntness.

“I want lil’ mama right there,” she said as she looked up at the tall, slim woman in line. They both locked eyes and the sexual energy was created instantly. Millie ran her tongue across her top lip and smiled, displaying her perfectly straight pearl teeth.

“Well, I guess that’s that,” Ghost said while smiling and rubbing his hands together. “Each of you has a suite upstairs and a twenty-four-hour chef is on staff. Just simply pick up your room phone and tell him what you want. Other than that, the night is yours. I suggest you guys relax and rest up. We all have a full day tomorrow. Tomorrow is the beginning of a new regime.” Ghost walked toward the exit. “I’ll be staying in the guest home, just across the lot. A cell phone is on each nightstand and my number is saved in each one. Any questions or qualms, don’t hesitate to text me. Good night,” he said. And just like that, he was gone.

Carter stood back and watched. He wanted to see who would jump first. He wanted to see who had the vice of sexual pleasure. He personally had no desire to be with another woman for two reasons. One, he was madly in love with Miamor and felt that he was the reason she was in jail. The thought of being with another woman while she sat in a small cell was unsettling. Two, he was here to get to the money. He was interested in what Ghost was offering and the fact that he had offered to pull strings for Miamor’s release had Carter committed to the proposal. Carter watched as everyone headed up the stairs, grabbing a girl to accompany them as they disappeared into their quarters for the night. He noticed that Anari didn’t even give the men a glance as she brushed right past them and headed to her room. Who is she? he asked himself as he watched her closely.

A lone girl stood at the top of the stairs, waiting for Carter as he stood there and thought to himself. “Sweetheart, I won’t be needing your company tonight unfortunately. Have yourself a good night,” Carter said as he gave her a half smile, smoothly sliding both of his hands into his slacks’ pockets. He slowly climbed the stairs and walked past the lady in red. Although he had no plans on utilizing her services, he did, however, get a peek at her voluptuous body through the see-through lingerie. Her erect nipples pointed directly at him. Her dark areolas were on full display and her glossed lips made her that much more enticing. However, Carter held his ground and walked right past the olive-colored beauty.

He retired to his room and was taken aback as soon as he stepped in. The marble floors looked like a sea of blue water with a black lining throughout. It was simply amazing. The canopy bed had sheer fabric draped over the California king–sized mattress. The room was spacious and resembled a luxury hotel. Carter walked through the room, observing each nook and cranny. He made his way toward the rear and the double doors that led to the balcony. The moonlight shined through the curtains, providing illumination to the scenery. Carter opened the doors and stepped out onto the balcony and saw that it was a view of the lake in the back. The moonlight bounced off the water and Carter stepped to the edge and admired the view. The cool air soothed him and he closed his eyes and tears began to form. The thought of Miamor being in a cold cell tormented his soul and beautiful views like the one he was currently witnessing only flooded guilt into his heart, knowing that hers was that of four cement walls. Miamor was truly the love of his life and his heart ached for her. Although she was the strongest woman he had ever known, he knew that prison wasn’t humane.

“I love you with all my heart,” he whispered as a single tear flowed down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away. He thought about his son as well and it was hard being away from little C.J. However, it was easier to deal with knowing that his sister Breeze was watching over him, or so he thought.

He stared into the lake and assessed the current dilemma. He began to think about the things Ghost had presented to them and how he said he had major political connections regarding the success of moving the new drug. Carter began to wonder if Ghost could use those same connections to help his situation with the FBI, Miamor, and reuniting his family. He quickly turned around and went back into the room, looking for the nightstand and the cell phone that Ghost had referred to earlier. He walked over to the phone and saw the BlackBerry just as described. He picked it up and began to look through the contacts. Ghost’s name was already stored in it and that’s when Carter sent the text.

I would like to speak with you alone if possible.

A few moments later Carter got a return text from Ghost, instructing him to walk across the yard and meet him in his personal villa that sat about one hundred yards away from the mansion Carter was currently in. Carter sat on the bed and took a deep breath, trying to figure out the best way to approach Ghost and ask him about his personal family situation.

* * *

Anari let the steaming-hot water run on her head and down her body as she enjoyed the water’s massage. She rested her hands on the stone-tiled shower walls and thought about the opportunity at hand. She was a retired drug dealer and that came with no pension or retirement plan. Her money had been running low and although she’d vowed to never enter the drug game again, this opportunity was much needed and seemed to have low risk. She kept replaying the words of Ghost over and over in her head trying to make sense of the proposition. She was a street legend back in the States and her name held power. Many rappers, entertainers, and celebrities within the black community acknowledged what she had done in the streets for years throughout the Midwest. She had been one of few throughout history that had been on the feds’ radar and escaped a guilty verdict. She was the female Teflon Don in every sense of the word. She was bulletproof. Not for nothing either—she was highly intelligent and moved to her own beat and drum. She and her husband had become urban legends. Anari stepped out of the shower and quickly wrapped herself in the oversized terry cloth towel. She walked out of the bathroom and opened the closet door. It was fully stocked with new clothes and as she began to thumb through it, she noticed that every piece of clothing was her exact size.

“Wow, they really did their homework,” she whispered to herself as she picked out a pair of silk pajamas and headed toward the bed thinking about what she had fallen into. She then exited the room and walked throughout the house, getting more comfortable with her surroundings. She reached a den that sat in the middle of the beautiful home and saw that there was a table with an ivory chess set. Being a big chess fan, she sat down and began to play a game with herself.

What is this guy’s angle? Is this shit real? Anari asked herself as she pushed the pawn up two spaces. Ironically, she felt as if she was a pawn in the grand scheme of things, a position she felt very uncomfortable in. Although Anari was a woman, she had always played the king of the board. She was determined to get to the source of Ghost’s intentions. She knew that he wasn’t the main guy, because if so she wouldn’t have seen him. She knew and understood fully that power moved in silence.

* * *

Carter exited the place and looked across the yard and saw a small building with a light on. He began to walk over. He looked at the end of the long driveway and toward the gate entrance and saw two gunmen standing guard with assault rifles. He didn’t know if they were keeping people from getting onto the property or keeping the guests in. He shook his head and focused on the small villalike building across the lawn. He approached the front door and gave it a few knocks and waited for a response. Moments later, Ghost answered the door. He was shirtless and sweating. A gym towel was draped over his shoulders as he breathed heavily, while using the tip of the towel to wipe the sweat beads from his forehead and smiling.

“Hey, man. Come in,” Ghost said as he stepped to the side, clearing the path so Carter could walk in.

“Thanks,” Carter said under his breath as he proceeded to walk in. He observed the small studio apartment. It only had a treadmill, a small kitchen, and a bed. The floors were made of wood and the room had four brick walls. The marble countertops and dark wood cabinets that matched the floors were modern and resembled a high-end Manhattan apartment.

“You have to excuse me. Just got a five-mile run in before bed,” Ghost said as he walked over to the dresser and pulled out a T-shirt.

“No worries,” Carter said as he leaned against the wall and slid his hands into his pockets.

“What’s up? Is everything ok?” Ghost asked just as he slid the shirt over his head and onto his body.

“No, not really. I want to talk to you about something,” Carter began.

“Okay. Shoot,” Ghost answered as he walked closer to Carter and folded his arms in front of his chest.

“Well, I remember what you said back at the Vatican about you having connections and political ties, right?” Carter quizzed.

“Yeah, of course.”

“Well, you see, I have a problem back home that I need help on. It’s my wife—”

“Miamor,” Ghost said, cutting him off midsentence.

“Y-yeah,” Carter answered, confused, wondering how Ghost had read his mind.

Ghost chuckled as he walked over to the kitchen and reached on top of the refrigerator.

“You drink scotch,” Ghost said as he then pulled two glasses from the cabinet.

“Sure,” Carter said as he stood straight up and began to rub both of his hands together. Ghost poured them both a drink and then handed Carter a glass. They took sips simultaneously, both looking each other in the eyes. Ghost continued the discussion.

“I know what you are going through with your wife and family. Like I said, my partners and I have been watching you all for years and we know about the trouble that she has gotten herself into.”

“Yeah, it’s been a bumpy ride. Can you really help me?” Carter asked with skepticism.

“I believe I can. There are ways we can make things disappear. The law is much more lenient to our establishment and the people who are in business with us. You see, you have a unique situation because Miamor is already convicted. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat,” Ghost said just before he downed the remainder of his scotch and walked over to the kitchen counter. He sat the glass in the sink and reached into a kitchen drawer, pulling out a legal-sized manila folder. He walked back over to Carter and handed him the envelope.

“What’s this?” Carter asked as he accepted the envelope and looked down at it in confusion.

“Go ahead. Take a look,” Ghost answered as he once again folded his arms in front of his chest. Carter opened the envelope and reached into it, pulling out a stack of photos. He began to look through the pictures and frowned in perplexity. He didn’t recognize anybody in the pictures. He did notice that each picture had a similar character, a thirty-something white man.

“I don’t get it. I don’t recognize anyone. What am I looking at and what does this have to do with my family?” Carter asked.

“You’re looking at the DA that prosecuted your wife. Also, that’s him taking bribes from various criminals over the past two years,” Ghost said with no emotion. Carter instantly began to realize why the pictures were so important.

“Oh, yeah?” Carter said under his breath as he continued to flip through.

“That’s right. This changes everything and turns the odds in your wife’s favor. If we can prove that the DA was soliciting illegal funds during your wife’s trial, it’s a big chance that we can get a retrial and from that point, we have the resources to sway any juror that’s in that courtroom. We have our ways to make people see things our way, if you know what I mean: a random audit, pressure from local police, or monetary compensation for their cooperation. Whatever needs to be done to get her free, we will handle it.” Ghost slowly paced the floor. Carter watched closely and studied his calm demeanor and looked into his eyes, trying to find an inkling of him lying—but he couldn’t. Ghost was the real thing.

“So, you think you can really get Miamor released?” Carter asked with blatant skepticism in his tone.

“I don’t think … I know we can. Like I said, if you help us with our goal we can help you with yours,” Ghost said as he stopped right in front of Carter, while confidently looking into his eyes.

“This is unbelievable,” Carter said as he shook his head.

“Well, believe it. This isn’t what you are used to. This is what white America calls nepotism and political power. This is foreign to people with brown or black skin. People like us can’t make calls to the higher-ups to make things go away or use a political connection to our benefit. This is what you call absolute power, my friend.”

“Well, I’m all in,” Carter said as his heart began to beat rapidly. He held his chest feeling his heart being tender. He knew that after his previous injuries he would never be the same, so he tried his best to deal with it without exposing it. He smiled and downed the rest of his scotch, ready to do whatever to free the only woman he had ever truly loved.

* * *

Anari was still playing chess with herself, trying to make sense of it all. She leaned forward and studied each move as if it was her last. Her index finger rested on her temple as she squinted and looked at the chessboard. Something was bothering her and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She hated the fact that they were cut off from the world and stuck with people she didn’t know from Adam. She began to question the real reason she was handpicked by this secret organization. “What is the motive, Anari?” she whispered to herself as she made her next move. She then spun the board around, so she could see the game from the imaginary opponent’s view. She realized that was exactly what she was trying to do in real life at that moment.

Carter entered back into the house and saw Anari from afar as she sat and played chess. He wasn’t tired so decided to walk over and join her. As he approached her, her eyes never lifted from the chessboard and she was laser focused as she whispered to herself.

“Mind if I join?” Carter said as he stood over her.

“You can do what you want to do, sir. This isn’t my house,” she said, not even giving him the respect of looking at him when she talked. Anari was a gangster effortlessly and it oozed off her. She was feminine without exploiting her sexuality but well aware of the power only a woman could possess.

“I will take that as a yes,” Carter answered with a smile. He sat across from her and watched as she continued to analyze the board. “So where are you from?” he asked as he placed his hand on the knight and made a move. This made Anari break her concentration, sit up, and look at him. He snickered and her brow furrowed at the arrogant smirk that crossed his face. She would have to concentrate to win this battle. She sensed genius behind his smooth, dark skin as she studied Carter, who was now focusing on the board, thinking about his next move.

“I’m a citizen of the world,” Anari finally answered vaguely as she made a move on the chessboard.

He peered up, meeting her gaze. It had to be more than irony, the fact that they were bred the same. They were predators, which meant they were more alike than different. Carter wasn’t sure if it was a bad or good thing but he respected the fact that she was guarded with her information. Letting the wrong person in could lead to self-destruction and he knew that like himself her trust was earned. She reminded him of his wife, only more calculating. Miamor may have been deadly, but Anari was bossed up. She reveled in her queendom. Carter recognized royalty when in its presence.

“This shit crazy, right?” Carter whispered as he leaned in closer and looked around.

“Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out their angle. It has to be an angle,” Anari said, sharing her thoughts.

“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” Carter agreed as he nodded his head in confirmation.

Just then a short man with all white on came from the rear of the place, wearing a tall white chef’s hat. He approached them with a big smile. His fat cheeks seemed to be greased as they shined in the light.

“Good evening, my name is Victor and I am the resident chef. May I prepare something for you or bring you a beverage?” he asked while maintaining his larger-than-life smile.

“Hello Victor. I’m good for now,” Anari responded as she looked at him and gave a fake grin. Carter just simply shook his head no. Victor nodded his head in understanding and disappeared back to the rear of the house. Just like that, he was gone.

“You see that shit?” Carter whispered.

“See what?”

“This shit is unreal. It’s like some real secret society shit. This big-ass house, chefs popping out of nowhere to serve us. A meeting at the Vatican. This doesn’t seem real.”

“Man, tell me about it,” Anari said, finally letting her guard down and looking Carter in the eye. They shared a smile and the ice was finally broken.

“So, what’s your story? Where did they get you from?” Anari inquired.

“I’m from the States but I was over in Barcelona when everything went black.”

“Barcelona, Spain?” Anari asked in confusion.

“Yeah, I had to lay low over there. The feds were on me back home so I had to go into hiding. I was doing my thing in Miami and then I tried to go legit in Vegas. You know how that goes, though,” Carter said as he moved a piece on the board.

“You’re Carter’s son, right?” Anari asked as she looked closely at his facial features. Also, she knew that anything that moved in Miami was under the umbrella of the Cartel. Their reputation rang bells throughout the country as the biggest and most organized crime syndicate in the South. If drug dealing was an art they would be the Picassos of it. They simply were the best to ever do it.

“Yeah, that’s my father. Never met him though,” Carter admitted as he dropped his head and focused on the chessboard.

“Oh, I see,” Anari said, not wanting to ask any more questions. She had heard nothing but good things about his father during her time on the streets. Her husband, Von, used to do business with him and he held Carter in high regard.

“I heard you used to make it snow in the Midwest. I grew up hearing your name for years. Tony, right?” Carter said as he called her by her street alias.

“Yeah, I did my thing back in the day,” Anari confirmed as she moved a chess piece. “Check,” she added just before looking at Carter.

“If this is anything like Ghost says it is, we are set for life. This is what them privileged conglomerates have been doing for years. They sell legal drugs and we never seem to get a piece of the pie. They only leave us with the product that comes with a life sentence if sold,” Carter explained.

“It’s too good to be true. However, I’m thinking that we didn’t have much of a choice. Ghost made it seem like the option was ours, but I truly beg to differ. You see what happened to ol’ girl once she declined? I’m pretty sure I would have been right there with her if I chose to decline. They put it in front of us like they are presenting us an opportunity but did we really have a choice?” Anari said just before she stood up. “Checkmate,” she added as she trapped his king and walked away.

Her words lingered in Carter’s thoughts as he began to digest the situation at hand. It was a new world order and he was a part of it. Frankly, he felt as if he was in a dream but the stakes were high, especially for him. He had no choice but to play the game, hoping that he didn’t let it play him in the end. Carter could do nothing but smile and shake his head in disbelief and admiration. He knew there was something special about Anari.


Copyright © 2017 by Ashley & JaQuavis