Belmont Club

The Ace of Spades

Es de mi firma. Joran Van Der Sloot gets turned over to the Peruvians. In the video below the Interpol representative tells him what’s going to happen next in the presence of white-coated nurses and doctors present to certify he’s all in one piece before being shipped across the border.

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One of the best descriptions of what goes through the mind of a person in Van Der Sloot’s situation was by Charles Dickens.  In depicting Fagin’s thoughts at his sentencing, Dickens caught the precise mixture of resignation and desperate hope, dimly apprehended fear and heightened awarness of the present that people on the brink experience. Fagin, in Oliver Twist, was standing in the dock, without a hope of acquittal, surrounded by crowd eager to hear sentence pronounced. Dickens portrays the scene.

Inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space. … He stood there, in all this glare of living light, with one hand resting on the wooden slab before him, the other held to his ear, and his head thrust forward to enable him to catch with greater distinctness every word that fell from the presiding judge, who was delivering his charge to the jury. At times, he turned his eyes sharply upon them to observe the effect of the slightest featherweight in his favour; and when the points against him were stated with terrible distinctness, looked towards his counsel, in mute appeal that he would, even then, urge something in his behalf. Beyond these manifestations of anxiety, he stirred not hand or foot. He had scarcely moved since the trial began; and now that the judge ceased to speak, he still remained in the same strained attitude of close attention, with his gaze bent on him, as though he listened still. …

He looked up into the gallery again. Some of the people were eating, and some fanning themselves with handkerchiefs; for the crowded place was very hot. There was one young man sketching his face in a little note-book. He wondered whether it was like, and looked on when the artist broke his pencil-point, and made another with his knife, as any idle spectator might have done.

In the same way, when he turned his eyes towards the judge, his mind began to busy itself with the fashion of his dress, and what it cost, and how he put it on. There was an old fat gentleman on the bench, too, who had gone out, some half an hour before, and now come back. He wondered within himself whether this man had been to get his dinner, what he had had, and where he had had it; and pursued this train of careless thought until some new object caught his eye and roused another.

Not that, all this time, his mind was, for an instant, free from one oppressive overwhelming sense of the grave that opened at his feet; it was ever present to him, but in a vague and general way, and he could not fix his thoughts upon it. Thus, even while he trembled, and turned burning hot at the idea of speedy death, he fell to counting the iron spikes before him, and wondering how the head of one had been broken off, and whether they would mend it, or leave it as it was. Then, he thought of all the horrors of the gallows and the scaffold–and stopped to watch a man sprinkling the floor to cool it–and then went on to think again.

At length there was a cry of silence, and a breathless look from all towards the door. The jury returned, and passed him close. He could glean nothing from their faces; they might as well have been of stone. Perfect stillness ensued–not a rustle–not a breath–Guilty.

The building rang with a tremendous shout, and another, and another, and then it echoed loud groans, that gathered strength as they swelled out, like angry thunder. It was a peal of joy from the populace outside, greeting the news that he would die on Monday.

It is a superlative description, lacking only a few refinements. You can almost sit in that room with Van Der Sloot and imagine the sounds, the harmless chatter, the buzz of office equipment that now seem to be emanating from another world. But what Dickens missed in OT was the retrospection. He does not make Fagin think back to how he came there;  to those times when he entered the doorways lit by some dim red lamp, the universal invitation to be our secret selves; a temptation which if sufficiently indulged, eventually makes us certain of exactly where we are going.

Fagin experiences a sense of unreality being at the final crossing: it seems fantastic that he so vital and alive, so full of passion even in the dock, will not be there in a week’s time. The suspect in the Natalie Holloway case, and now in the case of Stephany Flores Ramirez was only hours before in a taxi headed somewhere south; a Dutchman with a passport and dollars in his pocket. Now he listens to the words and you feel for him, despite everything, as you would feel for a cornered animal. The scene seems incomprehensible and there is an unreality in the sight the indios in the white coats, with their coats and badges and courtly Spanish telling him in third person polite that there’s a very real possibility he may soon wind up in the Peruvian prison system. In a place for example like Lurigancho prison, built for 1,600 inmates, where not even the warden knows how many are inside. The visitor from Médecins Sans Frontières expressed his astonishment at the arrangements.

“Well, the authorities do not even know. Let us assume that there are 6000 people, which at least is the number given by the prisoners themselves—who are accurately keeping count of the number. You shall see that the prison is overcrowded and the prisoners themselves are the boss.”

My visit to Lurigancho prison in Lima is on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières to see if it can help the prisoners. It sounds strange: prisoners running a prison their way. Once inside the gates I see a prisoner leave his cell, lock the door, and nonchalantly pocket the key. He is going out for lunch within the prison. In Lurigancho the prisoner is indeed the boss.

For many who make the eventual journey, there is the knowledge — clear from the very moment they entered the casino, the bar, the honky-tonk, the drug deal in the stairwell; from the red lamp glowing above the door and that breathless, excited feeling welling in their bosoms — that they were headed for a place just like Lurigancho. The exact name doesn’t matter. It’s a destination that starts without a name, whose features become clearer with each passing step until in the end when they walk through the portal, and hear the doors clanging behind them, there is no surprise at all.

The young Dutchman may have paid for his trip to Peru from money he received in an FBI sting. He had been trying to extort money from Holloway’s parents in exchange for divulging the location of her remains.  Fox News quotes someone with knowledge of the sting as saying:

We were going to go down with a team of guys and we were told not to, the FBI was going to handle it. Wherever it was, he made statements incriminating that he pushed her down, she hit her head, he got his dad, they buried her. He was going to tell her where it was. He wanted a quarter of a million dollars.

So the agreement was give him $25,000 up front, $10,000 cash given to him, and this was all videotaped with all his statements, and $15,000 was wire transferred. This way we have him on wire transfer of money on extortion. You have extortion and wire transfer.

You also had the Aruban government that knew about the FBI being there. So you have them with him making these admissions. Under the law Aruban law at that time after those admissions were made they could have held him on for at least 30 days and then the FBI could have locked him up ought that time.

He then slips out of the surveillance or whatever happened and he goes to South America, and it looks as though he killed this young girl, which is horrible.

What he might give now to be in the tender grasp of the Feds. But no: the first thing Joran did with the dough was go abroad to keep an appointment with something else. He wasn’t at the Peruvian casino to play poker. Gambling 911 describes him as “merely a ‘rail bird’. That is poker slang for ‘standing elbow-to-elbow with the other spectators’.”  His appointment may have been with another game; another wheel whose clicks were audible only in his head. Stephany Flores Ramirez may have been in the same room. The only problem was that she may not have been on the same planet. Against those human icebergs most of us have no defense.  We rely on a posteriori knowledge to assess risks. We think we have time to back off; the dangerous thing about the world is there are sometimes people out there who will come at you right off the bat. Sometimes the first card is the last card.

The river card is the final card dealt in a poker hand, to be followed by a final round of betting and, if necessary, a showdown. In Texas hold ’em and Omaha hold’em, the river, is the fifth and last card to be dealt to the board, after the flop and turn.

The river can change the fortune of a game by delivering one player a card which they need to beat another player’s already completed hand. A player losing the pot due only to the river card is said to have been ‘rivered’ or ‘drowned at the river’. Chancing the game on the river card is called ‘living by the river’, because of the dangers involved, and winning is called “sucking out”.

Fagin didn’t make it.


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