Hotel Hell, an Excerpt
Friday, August 24
He tried to scream but could only emit a soft moan. He felt sick, not so much from the pain as from the smell and feel of his own blood as it poured down his arm.
Recidio Suarez was tired. Very tired. He had spent the better part of the past year negotiating the purchase of Superior Foods, a wholesale food business. When the sale was finally completed and he assumed ownership, Suarez had to deal with a company that had been poorly managed and needed a lot of attention. These demands came on top of those required to run his primary bread winner, a medical supply company. It was exhausting.
He would never have extended himself this way if he had known that the person he had long trusted to assist with running the medical supply company, and whom he had rewarded with a partnership, would prove to be a fool. And the person he hired to manage the new venture turned out to be incompetent. Suarez couldn’t get rid of the fool because he couldn’t afford to buy him out, and he couldn’t bring himself to fire the incompetent in the middle of a down economy, so he used him as an assistant, a glorified errand boy who helped keep the shelves stocked and the business staffed.
August 24th dawned overcast and muggy. One of those South Florida days when the air has a presence. It was heavy, wet and hot. Very hot. Suarez was soaked with sweat when he walked into the chilled air of the food warehouse – a short distance from the adjoining parking lot – and greeted arriving staff. He had considered rolling over in bed that morning and trusting the day to his manager, but couldn’t bring himself to do that for a couple of reasons. He couldn’t rely on his manager to handle the administrative tasks associated with paying his people on this Friday, and he had someone coming in later that afternoon who was interested in using Superior Foods to supply meat, fish and fresh vegetables to a string of high end restaurants. It would be Suarez’s inaugural account since buying the business and had the potential to be a huge boost to his bottom line.
He spent the morning making certain that walk-in customers, who were the bulk of his business, were quickly and competently served, tutoring his staff on how to take care of these people quickly and efficiently. That afternoon he retreated to his small office located at the rear of the warehouse, where he wrote paychecks and called his staff in one-by-one to distribute them personally so he could pat a few backs. He spent the balance of the day contacting bodegas and restaurants around Miami – the foundation of his strategy to transform his customer base from individual sales to bulk sales. It had been a good day. Not great, but good. The responses to his calls were, if not enthusiastic, at least polite, with some expressing interest in receiving additional information.
The walk-in numbers were better than Suarez thought they would be on a day when a tropical disturbance was heading toward Miami and that, combined with the oppressive August summer weather, probably kept some people away from a trip to the warehouse, and many businesses closed. Since hurricane Andrew devastated the city two decades earlier, the threat of any storm mobilized Miamians, who went into serious preparation mode.
With the day winding down, Suarez focused on his meeting with the prospective client. That time came and went. At 4:00, he called the number the man had given him to see if he was still planning to come by, but there was no answer. Suarez decided to wait until 4:30 before heading out the door. It was earlier than his usual 5:00 departure, but he wanted nothing more than to be home, enjoying the quiet, and maybe even permitting himself to take a nap.
At 4:15, Suarez sent his manager to the bank with the day’s take; took a quick tour around the now empty warehouse, turned off the lights; and returned to the office area. There he packed up his briefcase and headed to the rear door of the two-office area that opened on to the parking lot behind the building. He was about to enter the security code into the pad next to the door when he heard the pinging of the code being entered into the pad on the outside wall next to this same door. Before he could react, the door swung in, hitting him in the head. He staggered back, his hand on his forehead, when two men pushed him to the ground and began hitting him in the face, neck, chest and stomach.
Suarez tried to turn onto his side to protect himself from the blows. He felt hands grabbing his legs and arms.
“Take my car,” Suarez yelled, now being pressed facedown against the concrete floor, a knee jammed between his shoulder blades. “The keys are in my pocket.”
“We don’t want your car, asshole,” one the men yelled at him, but still yanked the keys from Suarez’s pocket, ripping a large hole in the leg of his pants.
“That’s all I have,” Suarez barked back. “All the cash has been…,” he started, when he felt tape being wrapped around his forehead and eyes.
“Shut the fuck up,” was spit at him.
The fear didn’t kick in completely until Suarez realized he was immobilized, his feet and hands bound with handcuffs.
“The day’s cash has already been taken to the bank,” Suarez blurted as he was yanked to his feet by a pair of powerful and very large hands. He was thankful he had sent his manager to make the deposit and was willing to part with his own small bundle volunteering that, “I have about a $150 in my wallet. My computer and I Phone are in my briefcase.”
Suarez was being held against the wall by one of those very large hands, which was pressed into the middle of his back to keep him upright. The pressure against his sternum, and the tape wound around his head from his forehead to his lips, made it difficult to breathe.
A voice announced, “Okay, it’s clear.”
Suarez was lifted off his feet and hoisted over a man’s shoulder, his upper body hanging over this person’s back and his waist and legs draped in front. He felt the heat of the day as he was carried into the open. A short few steps and he was tossed into what he assumed was a van judging by the swooshing of the closing side doors. He hit his head hard against a wheel well and felt blood trickling from his scalp and pooling around the back of his ears, held there by the tightly wrapped tape that was also beginning to slice into the bridge of his nose.
“What the hell do you want?” Suarez screamed and began to kick his legs furiously. He was sweating profusely from the heat, the struggle and his panic.
He kept kicking his legs out in front of him and heard a SNAP just before his body spasmed as a flash of burning pain ripped through it. He managed another kick, aiming it in the direction of someone who was breathing heavily. Suarez heard a voice angrily demand that he “Stop.” The SNAP again, and his entire body cramped with another jolt of heat and pain, like a thousand hot pokers being jabbed into him. His legs, arms and stomach seized and shook violently. He was gasping to catch his breath.
Reeling from the jolts of what he realized was electricity, Suarez fought to control the cramps stiffening his body. He tried to clear his head and make some sense of what was happening to him. As he was struggling to put the pieces together, he felt the barrel of a gun pressed against his jaw. “Any more shit and I’ll kill you,” a man growled and grabbed him by his hair. He jerked Suarez’s head up and began wrapping more tape around his face, which was then driven into the floor of the van and held there by a foot.
Then the beatings started. The punching and kicking. Suarez tried to turn away from the jabs to his ribs, face and back. “What the hell is going on?” he mumbled, primarily to himself, realizing he would get nothing from the men who were brutalizing him.
After his attackers appeared to tire of beating him, someone threw a furniture blanket over Suarez. It was thick and dirty. Dust from the blanket coated him. He felt himself begin to hyperventilate. The tape was obstructing his breathing. He couldn’t catch his breath. He realized fear was overwhelming him and panic was setting in. Suarez willed himself to breathe evenly, deeply. He absolutely had to take control of himself and reason with these people, try to find out what they wanted.
As he was forcing himself to remain calm, one of the men yelled, “You can’t steal and get away with it. You’re a liar and a thief.”
Suarez’s panic ratcheted back up. “What are you talking about? I never stole from anyone in my life.”
“You’re lying right now,” came the response along with a kick to Suarez’s stomach that knocked the breath out of him.
Suarez managed to squeak, “Just tell me what you want.”
“Shut the fuck up. You’ll know soon enough.”