“El Maestro”

Characters of The Baggage HandlerEnglish: American Airlines Boeing 777 at Galeã...

Pedro El Maestro / The teacher

Pedro recruited me and taught me the drug trade.
Pedro was born in Cuba and came to the United States at a young age. He spent most of his life in New York City where he ran a  street numbers lottery “la bolitas” and also sold stolen merchandise for low cost. He was always looking to make a quick buck.
When I worked with him, he was in his mid-50s, short with a medium build. He looked a lot like Mr. Magoo!  His sentences were mix of Spanish and English — which would make my brain freeze!
Pedro and I met at American Airlines but worked in different departments. One day we got to talking and he offered me a job. For years I had resisted all such offers, but, for reasons I’ll explain later, I was vulnerable to the lure of the quick buck myself, so this time I said yes.
I was to be the middleman and explained to Pedro that I needed to be free to make all the decisions on the operation, and he said fine.
I gave him the nickname el gato / the cat, because he popped up unexpected all the time during operations or had other friends look in. I’d told Pedro that the more people who knew about the shipment the more likely the merchandise was going to get stolen.
Finally, he got it and backed off and let me handle things my way.
Things went pretty well for a while.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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