Talent lost

TC got smoked...

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: June 25, 2008

Talent lost

The body of the handsome young man lay askew in the front seat of his luxury car in the early morning light, in the spring of 1992. Blood spattered about it's white luxurious upholstery, it was evident by the 2 large holes in his face and chest that he had been shot at close range.

"What do you think?", a police detective asked the investigating coroner on the scene.

"Well‘«™judging by the stench and the dried blood, he's been dead since last night. Judging by the entry wounds, the victim faced whoever shot him. Whoever shot him made sure the shots were lethal‘«™sounds like a gang hit to me, Bob", the Coroner said matter of factly, while chewing a large wad of bubblegum.

Surprised and taken aback, the young detective countered, "But he's not a gangster‘«™he's Tommy Cardenas, a local politician‘«™local boy from the San Fernando Valley‘«™high school football star back in his day‘«™a high profile college boy Viet Nam war protester‘«™ businessman turned politician‘«™this guy's star was rising‘«™he was only 38".

Sensing the detective's newness to the job, and annoyed by it, the older man smiled and simply said "Well, then‘«™welcome to L.A‘«™.and your first assassination" before walking off. He had seen this before, and he had learned to avoid sensationalizing any possible homicide, especially when it came to politicians & celebrities.

News reporters and the curious soon began forming a crowd as TV cameras began setting up camp. Police began cordoning off the area with yellow tape and police cars blocking the street.

2 older Chicano "veteranos" stood off at a distance across the street watching the scene with indifference. Walking their grandchildren to school in the early morning sunshine , they stopped to exchange greetings and share a smoke ."..'morning, Freddie", "hey, what's happening, Bennie?" the men exchanged.

"Just heard they found Tommy Cardenas blown away in his own ride", Fred said.

"Doesn't surprise me", Bennie said, "The guy made himself a lot of enemies since getting out of High School and turning on the neighborhood".

"Yeah‘«™I heard. After being a big football star at San Fernando High, the vato couldn't cut it with the big boys at college, so he turned to business and politics. Made a lot of noise as a war protester, and he was a pinche draft dodger! Made a lot of money off the Mexican people in his real estate business, but then forgot where he came from when he made the big dollars. He married his high school sweetheart, Olivia Reyes, but started going out with gabachas on the side, chasing all those blondies on the west side, then moved out there.

"When he ran for city councilman and won, he used his mom's address in the 'hood, but he lived in Santa Monica. Then, he helped condemn a lot of old houses and apartments in the 'hood so his rich Jewish friends could demolish them and build shopping malls and condos, while kicking the poor Gente out of their homes & neighborhoods", Fred rattled off. "One of those was my Tia Lola. She died living in a family member's converted garage 'cause she couldn't afford anything else. Both her and my Tio Albert had bought and paid their house off years ago, but when it got condemned, they didn't get half of what it was worth.. They were old and the money ran out‘«™my family hates his ass".

"Hijo..that's gaucho", Bennie replied. "I also heard that he left his Chicana wife and 3 kids for some white bitch who took him for most of his money. When he came back, she wouldn't have him, so he sold their house and used the money to run for Mayor. He didn't win, but he got a job with another city councilman who eventually went on to become a state senator, so he had a job and a house, and his ex and kids had to go live with her mother.

"The pinche vato put his business under his brother's name, so she couldn't get a dime out of him and had to go on welfare & food stamps for awhile. She was really embarrassed, too. Nice lady, tambien. Pretty, too", he said "She has a big family, and they all hate his ass".

"Man‘«™that pinche vato was banging pretty babes all over the city, too. He was spoiled rotten, and got stuff & jobs he didn't deserve. Rumor has it he had a couple of kids from different women, but his lawyer friends always got him out of trouble", Fred said, now irritated and more willing to talk, as was Bennie.

As the 2 men were talking, deciding to have another smoke, another neighborhood resident named Yolanda also walked her grandchild to school and greeted the men after she dropped her off.

"What's going on, guys?", Yolanda smiled. Her husband was a Viet Nam war veteran and Army reservist who had been killed in the first Gulf War of 1992, and out of love and dedication, she had never gotten remarried or dated anyone else. She was an attractive woman who had gotten involved in her community for the sake of her children and grandchildren, supported veterans and servicemen causes, and was well-admired and respected for it.

"Hey, Yolie, what's going on?", both Fred & Bennie responded. Both men had been boyhood friends with her husband Ronnie.

"You tell me", she said, "What's with all the cops & TV cameras across the street?".

"Orale, you haven't heard? They found Tommy Cardenas snuffed in his own car this morning. Blown away dead", Bennie said.

"Hmmm‘«™I'm not surprised", Yolanda said pensively, "I hated that dude! He was all against the war in Viet Nam when it was his time to serve, but then years later he's working for some hot shit Senator and they both support the war in Kuwait that they didn't have to go to, and my Ronnie was killed in. Pinche dude doesn't even support the veterans in this town. I hated him.

"My carnalito tells me he came back to the 'hood acting all supportive a few weeks ago, talking to all the homies and saying he was going to help them with jobs and school and all. After he got to know them and learned names and stuff, he disappeared, and the cops came in right after and started busting all the young homies he had met and gotten addresses from. About 15 are locked up right now waiting for court. They all hate his ass, knowing he set them all up", she said. "GOD forgive me, but I'm glad he's dead", Yolanda said as she crossed herself in the catholic manner.

"Oh, wow, check this out‘«™", Fred murmured, as the ex-wife and widow of the dead man came walking by slowly. Olivia Reyes had once been a pretty & popular high school cheerleader, but the life experience, betrayal, shame, and abandonment in public from the dead man she once loved had aged her pretty face. She greeted them nonchalantly, as if she was simply was taking a casual morning walk.

"Morning, Olivia‘«™sorry to hear about Tommy", the three greeted her respectfully.

"Thanks‘«™but don't feel sorry‘«™Tommy had so much talent and he wasted it. He could have done so much for everybody in this town. He could have made me and his 3 children happy, comfortable, and proud of him‘«™.instead he broke our hearts. He could have had the love and respect from his family, and he could have had true friends‘«™but he wasted his talent, made enemies, and he's dead before his time because of it‘«™" , she said, as she continued to walk by. 'Don't feel sorry‘«™I don't".

"But‘«™aren't you at least sad that your children have no father and no means of support? Is there anything we can do to help" Fred asked sympathetically.

"No‘«™but thanks anyway‘«™I made sure I kept up the payments on a life insurance policy that paid double indemnity in case of accidental death or homicide‘«™we'll be OK‘«™". Her face was completely emotionless as she approached the police to help identify the body before it was taken away.

After a few minutes talking with detectives, she continued on her casual stroll, her face completely emotionless, but for a slight grin‘«™.

A reporter who had been ignored and shunned by the dead man's widow approached the three people across the street.

"Hi", he said, "Mrs. Cardenas wouldn't speak with me‘«™ but I noticed she spoke with you. What's the story? What did she say? What did she talk with you about? How do you think the Chicano community will react to the tragic death of one of it's stars?" the reporter asked anxiously.

Looking at each other and trying to suppress smiles, the three veteranos turned and started to walk away in different directions, not saying a word, leaving the reporter ignored and further exasperated.

"Wasted talent‘«™" one of them said.

"What?" the reporter asked. Nobody responded‘«™

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme, is a Contributing Editor.
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