Bogotá, Colombia 1977
The stench of unwashed humans enveloped Tommy Logan as a thick
guard led him into La Modelo, the fortress prison in Bogotá. The
prison housed over ten thousand prisoners. Across all the concrete
walls, Viva la revolución was spray-painted in red.
Where was Sandy? How was she? Why did he bring her with him
to Colombia this time? She had insisted, but he thought it would be
dangerous. He had to get word to someone.
The charges against him were vague. For suspicion. It had something
to do with trafficking emeralds. He and Harry didn’t have any
emeralds or coke when the apartment was raided. There was a little
pot, the cash, and Harry’s diamond rings and snorter. The soldiers
found the pistols, but guns were a normal precaution in Colombia
for anyone with property.
A short solider pushed Tommy into a ten-foot-long and fourfoot-
wide cage made out of screen mesh and bars. At the end was a
tiny hatch, like a lion’s cage in the circus, so that he had to crawl to
enter and leave. Two barbers in the center of the room were giving
The prison officers wore black uniforms with Maltese crosses. A
dead-on Nazi design: black boots, black pants, black caps, and black
Peter S. Rush
sashes with gold insignias. Short on pay, but their uniforms were
flashy, Tommy thought.
As a short, stocky peasant guard led him from the cage after his
haircut, Tommy asked a lieutenant if he could use one of the pay
phones by the door. He had to get word to the outside. He didn’t
want to get lost among the thousands of prisoners. “After you are
processed,” was the answer.
After being fingerprinted, the peasant guard led him into the reception
area, infested with gamines. They were the street urchins of
Bogotá who ran in wild packs, growing up on the street, learning to
survive the best they could in the world. Hustling, pickpocketing,
thieving—staying alive. The Oliver Twists of Colombia.
Where was Harry? He wasn’t in the same wagon when Tommy
had arrived. Now he wasn’t in the processing area. What did they
do with him? Did they get the shipment? Was he out three hundred
When the gamines saw Tommy, a gringo, twenty of the children
descended upon him, selling cigarettes, food, and paper as little pairs of
hands were trying to go through his clothes. Tommy slapped them away
and moved to a captain standing near the door who was giving orders.
“What happened to the girls?” Tommy asked the officer, the aches
from his beating still reminding him of his stupidity. He’d fought for
Sandy, but it hadn’t been enough. Did he cause more harm? “Can
you find out?”
The officer’s eyes traced the blood on Tommy’s face and the welts
on his arms but said nothing. Now he had to get out. Could he make
it to the American Embassy? They hadn’t done anything wrong, and
he could get help for Sandy. He had five thousand pesos stuffed in
“Por favor,” Tommy said to the captain, showing him some pesos.
A message? The officer looked around quickly and gave him a sheet of
paper and a pencil. Tommy quickly wrote. It simply read:
Mr. Jamison Carlton
Senior Vice President
Second National Bank of Georgia
Sandy is being held without charges by Colombian authorities. You
need a lawyer who can be trusted.
The message cost him two thousand pesos to smuggle out to the
The guards began separating the prisoners.
“Patio 5 with the gringos?” the guard asked the captain as he led
Tommy by the arm. The captain looked down at the paper in front of
him and shook his head. “Nada. Peligroso,” the captain said. “Patio 4.”
Tommy remembered peligroso meant dangerous. So they weren’t
putting him with the gringos. Harry would be there. He’d find a way
to get there.
Walking along the balcony of Patio 4, Tommy saw clothes, bedding,
and underwear tied to the railings as an outdoor clothesline.
The steady noise of thousands of caged voices beat on his ears like a
tropical downpour on a tin roof. It was night by the time Tommy got
to his cell, a six-foot by eight-foot room with a toilet that didn’t work
and a concrete slab for a bed. The cell held four other prisoners. The
gamines on the cellblock lived ten or more to a cell.
The cool night air chilled Tommy. One man, with a pockmarked
face, was lying under his woolen ruana on a thin cotton mattress on
the slab. He exchanged greetings with Tommy. He said his name was