My name is Christa Atkins and this is the story of how I took down the largest Mexican drug cartel in the Western Hemisphere. I grew up in Markham, Virginia and had a pretty normal childhood. I graduated from the University of Miami as a marine biology major last spring. At the beginning of the summer I applied for a job at the Baltimore Aquarium, but I got denied because they said they needed someone with more experience. This was disappointing to me because that was my dream job, but it was nearing the end of the summer and my parents were getting anxious about me finding a job. I was out of options and getting pretty desperate.
It all started when I decided to go for a drive to free my mind. As I drove I passed the local vineyard called White Mountain Vineyard. I realized that I had not gone to the vineyard in a long time. This was partially because the road that led down to the vineyard was very windy, narrow and in horrible shape. Two cars couldn’t go down it at the same time because it was so narrow. I decided to stop in to get a drink to help me relax. As I walked into the vineyard I saw a hiring sign in the window. Maybe this is meant to be, I thought to myself. I walked in and was immediately greeted by a friendly worker. As I sat myself down on the barstool I started to ask the bartender about the job.
“I saw that you’re hiring,” I said.
The bartender turned around from pouring a glass to face me. “Yeah, the last worker moved to France to open up a bakery,” he responded. “The director of this vineyard has lots of connections around the world and helps his former workers get great opportunities if they’ve been a good help to the vineyard. Are you interested?”
“Yeah! This sounds perfect!” I exclaimed.
“That’s great! I’ll go talk to the owner, who is also the manager. Here’s an application.
We’ve been needing a new worker ever since Phil left. He’ll be pleased to hear this ‘cause he’s been stressed about something, but he won’t tell me what’s wrong. This will hopefully cheer him up.” I gave the bartender my email and he said that they would get back to me as soon as possible.
As I drove home a loud ding suddenly sounded from my phone. At a red light I paused and looked down. It was an email from the vineyard saying that they would like to interview me as soon as possible. Even today they said, if I possible. I had only left the vineyard ten minutes ago and they had already sent me the email. I made a u-turn and excitedly headed back to the vineyard. I went in and met with the owner, Mr. Ramirez. Right from the start I felt comfortable. He seemed like an easy going guy. The interview process didn’t take long and before I knew he was shaking my hand saying I got the job.
As I drove home I felt very content. I rolled the windows down and felt the warm end-of-summer wind on my face. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off me. I had finally found a job. Even if it was not the job that I had been expecting, I was relieved to finally get one that would support me. As soon as I burst through the door I excitedly yelled to my parents.
“Mom, Dad guess what? I finally got a job!” I exclaimed.
“What? That’s amazing!” my mom yelled. “Doing what?
“You know the White Mountain Vineyard off of Spring Road?” I asked.
“Yeah, I love that place,” said my dad.
“Well I stopped in there to get a drink and found out that they were hiring. It also seems like a very enjoyable and fun place to work.”
“We’re so proud of you!” my parents exclaimed.
The next day I woke up at the crack of dawn, took a shower, got dressed, and hopped in my car. I sped down the twisty path to the vineyard and jumped out of my car. I was feeling so refreshed and excited to begin this new part of my life. That day was one of the best days of my life. I became best friends with one of the workers name Shelby. We clicked right away. I loved everyone who worked there. Before long I felt like I had a second family at the vineyard.
Two months passed by very quickly. I woke up eagerly each morning filled with excitement. Every morning I would speed to the vineyard to work. I loved working there because I got to meet so many diverse people. The job almost seemed too perfect: everyone was nice, the pay was good, and I liked my boss. However, it was not perfect for long.
One night as I was coming home it was pouring rain and thunder was booming. I got home and jumped in my bed to watch Netflix. Suddenly, I heard the sounds of sirens shrieking through the rain and thunder. I glanced out my window and saw a stream of emergency vehicles rushing down the road. I was concerned about what was happening, but I so exhausted that I plopped down on my bed and fell fast asleep.
The next morning when I arrived at the top of the road to go down to the vineyard it was blocked by police officers. I parked my car and ran up to an officer.
“What happened?” I blurted out.
“There was a car accident. A family smashed into a tree on the way down.” the cop responded.
“Were they okay?” I anxiously asked.
“Sadly no, all four members of the family were killed, including the pregnant mother.”
I sat down hard on the grass. I couldn’t believe it. The joyful, happy place that I loved so much would now be known as the site of a tragic accident. I saw Shelby’s car pull up so I got up and ran over to it. I explained everything that had happened to her. We both cried and hugged each other. Even though it was neither of our faults we both felt partly responsible because we worked there. It was like the mandatory guilt that everyone gets when something happens to someone or something they love. We crossed the bright, yellow police tape and walked down the tragic road that ended five lives earlier during night. I talked to both the manager and some of the other workers. Everyone was in a pretty depressing mood. Mr. Ramirez gave everyone the day off so I trudged back through the mud up to my car, and headed home.
When I got home I plopped back into bed and turned on the news. I watched about a new school being built, a new way to reuse bottles, and about a major drug lord, named Antonio Carlima, suddenly disappearing from the police. After watching that the story of the car wreck came on. I got sad so I turned the TV off.
Weeks passed and life at the vineyard moved on. Everyone was pretty sad and quiet right after the accident, but everyone seemed to move on. Mr. Gonzalez left for a trip for two weeks and everyone missed him. It was the fifth day that he had been gone when Mrs. Gonzalez asked me to clean the bar. I wiped the counter and all the bottles down. I started to clean out the beer kegs when I noticed that there were a few kegs that we didn’t use that still had to be cleaned, because all of the workers had been noticing the smell of mildew throughout the bar. As I opened a keg up, a line of a white, powdery substance fell onto the ground. It didn’t take a genius to realize what it was. It was cocaine.
At first I was so in shock that I didn’t move. Then I realized that because I had my cleaning gloves on, that the prints of whomever’s cocaine it was would still be on the bag. I slipped it into my purse and continued cleaning. After work I would drive straight to the cops. I did this because I didn’t want anyone to get suspicious that I was on to them. If I left suddenly people would be asking why and I am a horrible liar. The only person I told was my best friend at the vineyard, Shelby. As I continued cleaning other tables I turned on the TV and listened to the news. I heard that the body of the drug lord, Antonio Carlima was found not far from the vineyard.
Instead of going to the police with the bag of cocaine I decided to go to my friend Nick’s office. Nick worked with a private investigator firm. He also had friends at a police station with access to a fingerprint database. I decided to do this because I was worried about my friends at the vineyard. I didn’t want to go to the police because one of the workers may have made just a one time mistake. Since, the cocaine was in a line and it was in a such a small quantity I wanted to give them a chance to explain themselves before I told the police. I gave Nick the bag and he took it into a lab to look at fingerprints. He then sent the prints to his friend at the police station to compare it to the prints on their database. Once the email arrived he came back into the room with a grim look on his face.
“You’re not going to like what I’m going to say.” he said shakily.
“I can take it. The suspense is too much! Tell me! I exclaimed.
“The prints are Mr. Gonzalez’s.” he said. I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me. As soon as the words came out of his mouth I regretted everything. I regretted cleaning the bar and I regretted my choice to be helpful and clean the empty kegs. I had finally gotten a job I loved after months of searching and now it could all be over.
“No. That’s not possible. Mr. Gonzalez would never do something like that.” I exclaimed.
“The test is correct. They’re his prints.” Nick said.
I left Nick’s office almost in tears. Everything was going to be over. I left the bag of cocaine with Nick and said that I would come back later with police. I called Shelby and asked her to meet me for dinner. We decided to sneak into Mr. Gonzalez’s office the next day and try to find something that would explain the drugs. Neither of us wanted to see him go to prison and we hoped that there was some logical explanation.
We arrived at work early the next morning and made sure that no one was around. We picked the lock with the bobby pin that was in my hair. We searched his office for fifteen minutes and found nothing. I had looked through his desk drawers about twice when I realized that the wood came up in a small round circle inside the drawer. The wood looked like a secret button out of detective movie. I pushed down on the circle and realized it was a button. As soon as I pressed it there was a loud click sound. A small, thin, narrow drawer popped out underneath the previous drawer. In the secret drawer there was a large black notebook. I anxiously grabbed it and started paging through it. What I saw in that notebook would scar me forever. What I saw took my breath away. \
I looked up at Shelby who was anxiously waiting for me to tell her what was in the book. I made eye contact with her and said “This is about far more than just that little bag of cocaine.”
In the book there were gory pictures of the car wreck and large sums of money crossed out. There were also equivalents of diary entries that Mr. Gonzales had written. “This entire vineyard is a front.” I whispered. “Everything, everything from day one hasn’t been real. This is all just a cover so that people wouldn’t suspect Mr. Gonzalez.” Shelby looked like she was about to get sick. I felt that way myself. Everything we had been told since day one of working at the vineyard had been one massive lie. In the book Mr. Gonzalez had explained everything. He was the leader of the massive Guatemalan drug cartel . Antonio Carlima who was the missing drug lord of the rival cartel, La Tumero, was Mr. Gonzalez’s main enemy.
Mr. Gonzalez had asked Antonio to come to the vineyard to discuss a business proposition. the same night of the deadly car accident. He was planning to murder Antonio when he came down the pathway and stage it as a car accident. However, Gonzalez did not plan on the family coming late that night. Because it was dark and stormy he accidentally ran the wrong car off the road into a tree. He did not realize his mistake until the next morning when the police showed up and he saw the bodies. He knew that Antonio was still out there. Gonzalez found out where Antonio was and kidnapped him. He then stabbed him to death and hid his body in a field. This all happened when Gonzalez was supposed to be on a “business trip.” He had kept the book with details of all of this so that he could send the book to his drug cartel to have a trophy that showed that Antonio was dead.
I grabbed the book and ran straight to my car. Shelby was right behind me. We got in and drove straight to the police station. We talked to the cops and showed them the book. They set out on a manhunt right away for Mr. Gonzalez. It took them one week to find him. It turned out that he was hiding in the attic of his mother’s house. They caught him trying to flee the country to Mexico. Everything turned out great in the end because the Baltimore Aquarium had a spot opening and I got the job. The only problem was that I would have a target on my back for the rest of life for taking down the world’s biggest drug boss. But that was something I could live with because I had the satisfaction of taking down a man who murdered five innocent people.