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El Chappie: The World's Second Greatest Criminal
About the Author: T.L. Huchu’s work has appeared in Interzone, AfroSF, The Apex Book of World SF 5, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, The Year’s Best Crime and Mystery Stories 2016, and elsewhere. He enjoys working across different genres, especially SFF, crime and literary fiction. Currently, he’s working on a new fantasy series Ghostalker. Find him @TendaiHuchu.

Please loosen these cuffs, I can’t feel my hands.

Oh, that’s nice. The blood’s rushing back in. You have no idea what a relief that is.

Folks call me El Chappie on account of the fact I’m fat, round, and, under the right light, it’s said I resemble a certain Joaquín Guzmán. You’re nodding, people often do when I out myself like that. It’s, like, I’m confirming something they couldn’t themselves say in this PC age of ours, but I ain’t no snowflake. My similarities with my double are limited to my diminutive height, stubby nose, curly hair, the penchant for moustaches, and I happen to share that intense stare you find in the pictures of the Mexican drug lord on the Internet. That’s about it. I hope it goes without saying that I’m not Hispanic, am half the dude’s age, and have never been in charge of a multinational narcotics operation responsible for murder and mayhem across several international borders. But, and this is a big but, while I’ve not achieved the same level of notoriety, I still like to think that my moniker is well-earned.

See, my life of crime began in your country, about seven, eight years ago. That’s round about the same length of time bin Laden was in hiding, right? See, I’m up there with him too.

I’m dying for a smoke here. I promise I’ll tell you everything you want if you let me have one … Okay, I’ll settle for a coffee instead. Pretty please … What else do you guys want from me?

Thank you. Black, no sugar—I’m sweet enough. And, make it one from your canteen too, not that vending machine piss in Styrofoam.

Do you want me to wait for your colleague or shall I continue?

I’m curious, though? Did you guys really think it was necessary to send in all them squad cars? I was chilling at the counter, doing my thing, you know? It was early in the morning, I hadn’t even woken up properly, yet. The first customers all wanted an espresso or something with a swirl of Kahlua to shock the system and get the day going. Traffic steaming outside, office workers wandering past on the pavement. A bit of sunlight; the temperature was still cool, but you could tell it was gonna be a scorcher, right? I mean, there was no announcement, no sirens or anything like that. So, I was minding my own business; me, Rodrigo and Kwame in the back. My erstwhile accomplices, where did you put them? Are they here, too? We weren’t hurting nobody and then, boom, bash, crash, I hear the back door broken down, and, I’m thinking, are we getting robbed or something? It was too early and all I had was a bit of change on me. Goons burst through the front, semi-automatics at the ready, Tasers charged up, batons and mace, shouting so many things at once I couldn’t tell what they wanted. It was crazy, yo. Middle of Rochester on a Tuesday morning. Damn near shat myself and all.

There he is, man of the hour … Thanks for the mug; I’m an addict, I admit it. Can’t do without a cup every couple of hours, otherwise I get zombified.

You’re the same, right? I can always tell a fellow caffeine-fiend from a mile away, brown teeth and all.

I don’t really dig this quick brew stuff, though. But, there’s this old saying my people have: Mwana wamambo muranda kumwe. Means: a king’s son is a slave elsewhere. Pretty literal translation there, but you get the gist. We have a proverb for everything under the sun and then some.

I still think I’m in some kind of psychic shock, given how it all went down. But, I’m also at peace now, the sort of peace I ain’t had in a looong time. Sleeping with one eye open takes its toll on your nerves, you know? No idea how I carried on this many years. It feels good to be able to talk openly like this. I’ve been in the shadows so long pretending to be someone I’m not, so I just wanna thank you guys for this. You have no—

This story appears in our AUG 2019 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Timely! Very well written. Poignant!
By Susan Rickard

A well written story that tugs at my heart. The dreadful thing is, it’s probably true.
By Teffy Wrightson

Excellent story. From the first sentence to the last you’re wanting to know what’s next, there’s no setting it down to finish later. Wonderfully worded, beautifully constructed, a thought provoking read. Thank you.
By Kit Cowie

El Chappie is hilarious! I had to read through to the end in one glorious sitting. I laughed and understood and hung on to his every word. Loved the word play as well. Thank you for this story!!! Write on...
By Tina Jude

That was a surprise … nice story
By Steven Pikes

I particularly enjoyed this one.
By Henry Gubbles

By Murphy Davis

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