Mengalli’s next assignment deeply troubled him throughout his three hour flight from Laredo to Toronto. In sharp contrast to any other he had accepted, this one was very different. He would be functioning in a country with which he had no experience. He had never been there. Its gun control laws were brutally strict, so much so that owning or possessing one, without going through exhaustive registration, constituted an enormous risk. Killing Kerri King would be relatively easy, but making her disappear without a trace of evidence would challenge his considerable talents. Completing the assignment, then escaping the country undetected, seemed impossible. Compounding the degree of difficulty was the fact that Kerri King was the Iacardi Santa Claus, one of the most sought after individuals on the planet. He had always had the help of confederates in his Columbian killing rampage. Even in the United States there was always someone he knew who would, for a price, help him. He knew no one in Canada. He would be compelled to finesse the most difficult assignment of his career, unassisted. For the first time in his life, he experienced doubt, even a fear of failure.
His fear evoked a chilling memory. It happened in October of 1989. Pablo Escobar, the boss of the Medellin drug cartel, had ordered Mengalista to kill Diego Garcia, the leader of a group of Columbians which was encroaching on the cartel’s territory. Garcia was to be his final victim. “One more and done,” he had told himself, now more interested in his exit plan than the Garcia contract. That distraction was his first mistake. Like any of his numerous killings, he assumed this would be easy. That assumption was his second mistake.
Mengalista ambushed Garcia at the South Terminal of the Metro de Medellin, an inter-city public transportation hub with connections to the south of the country and the cities of Armenia, Menizales, Pereira, Cali, and Pasto. It was three A.M. The station was nearly void of humanity. Mengalista, knife in hand, approached Garcia swiftly from the rear. Instead of slicing his victim’s throat with one quick stroke of his knife, he chose to trip him by kicking his left heel against his right foot. He wanted to confront Garcia, to let him see the great Santiago Mengalista, the man who was about to kill him. Like a domestic cat, taking pleasure in tormenting a mouse before the kill, he wanted to toy with his victim, to postpone the sadistic sensation of ending a man’s life.
Garcia fell, face first, onto the station’s tiled floor, then rolled and faced his attacker. Mengalista, still brandishing his six inch knife, smiled. “I am the last human you will ever see, Diego, and you are the last human I will ever kill for the cartel,” he declared, then attacked. Garcia, much younger and more agile than his adversary, rolled sideways, then sprang to his feet. He removed a double-edged dagger from his nylon wrist sheath and slashed Mengalista’s left cheek, barely missing his jugular vein. Stunned by the cut and bleeding profusely, Mengalista covered the wound with his left hand. In a fit of rage he hurled his knife at Garcia, striking his Adam’s apple. Choking and gasping for air, Garcia slumped to the floor, drowning in his own blood.
The four inch scar on Mengalli’s left cheek served as a permanent reminder. He had made two of the worst mistakes a professional killer can make, and they came close to costing him his life. He vowed never to make another one.