St James Day Chapters 1-10

 

            LOU CHRISTINE’S

           “SAINT JAMES DAY”

 

 

 

                                                                   CHAPTER 1

 

Atlantic winds swept over the Iberian Peninsula. The chill from those winds knifed their way through the lingering thick air left over from the previous day’s heat. During the summer of 1491 the southwest plains of Spain were well baked due to blistering temperatures reaching over a hundred degrees.

A horse-drawn carriage lumbered out of a motionless pueblo just prior to dawn. The horse’s ebony coat glistened in the moonlight. A seasoned driver, dressed warm against the morning chill, clutched onto the horse’s reigns.

The moon appeared surreal, like a work of art, a model perhaps made of paper Mache, with the shimmering heavens appearing as an artist’s backdrop. Yet it was real. A glimmer of dawn’s early light seeped out and over sleepy clouds on the eastern horizon.

The driver directed the carriage northeast toward Seville. Heading into the wind the driver’s cape waved like a flag on a blustery day, creating a snapping sound. The flapping and the “klippity-klop” of the horse’s hooves, along with the coach’s grinding-iron wheels, broke the stillness of the early hour.

Inside the carriage a bearded man settled in. Senior Jose Luis Rocio glanced back as the coach exited the pueblo. Outside the passing carriage’s window stood a Carrera, marble statue molded from the likeness of who was said to be the Virgin of El Rocio. The alabaster-white statue while struck by the moon’s light, show casing a pure white reminding one of brand new stick of chalk.

Jose Luis’s vision fanned out beyond the centerpiece, past the plaza, and over the buildings and grounds of the mission.

The bells inside the mission’s towers showed as razor-blade blue. Those bells, an El Rocian landmark, would clang if anything went wrong or if there was news to bear, sounding an alarm by ringing a concoction of morbid-sounding dongs–rung in a cadence similar to poetic Haiku.

The toll of the bells would be repeated from pueblo to pueblo nudging the alarm toward the target of its beckoning.

Jose Luis, the man in the carriage, served the late, 15th Century’s Andulusian community as the pueblo’s conscientious mayor. Besides being El Rocio’s mayor he also served as the pueblo’s capable and compassionate physician.

Due to often unrest, whenever most barons ventured outside their domains they traveled in a more-fortified fashion. Jose Rocio traveled without bodyguards. Jose Luis never sensed a need for armed escorts. His family’s deep entrenchment for well-over 600 years insured his right. There were no challenges to his sovereignty.

Long before, ironclad treaties were struck with El Rocio’s neighbors. His lock was further reinforced. Rocio often served as a confidant of Her Majesty, Isabella, and Queen of Spain. The crown mandated his post.

Doctor Rocio’s coach lurched over the rutted plains making up the south of Spain. Fifteenth-Century Andalusian society became somewhat more civilized than times during its bloody past.

Special homage was reserved for the Mayor of El Rocio, a reverence that stretched beyond the frontiers of Espana’s Andalusia.

Even today, in the Twenty-First Century, Andalusians’ harbor a tender spot in their hearts for the enclave, for the virgin’s story, and for the statue.

In 1491 El Rocio’s legacy spread as far as Argon and Astoria, as it did to the north and over the Pyrenees and to Castille and Valencia.

The story attached to the statue was etched into the minds of many Spaniards as a quintessential example depicting true love.

At the time of Jose Luis Rocio, the statue graced the entrance of the dusty Spanish town for over 400 years. The story of Julia remains so revered that even during these times, during the month of May, thousands of pilgrims from all parts of Spain march on foot toward El Rocio to pay homage toward the virgin’s likeness.

By 1491 El Rocian children had the tale of Julia repeated and embroidered into their memories for over seven centuries. By the Fifteenth Century the people of Spain canonized her memory. Believers admired the young woman’s unwavering conviction regaling how she sacrificed her life rather than permit her body and spotless soul to capitulate to the perverted wishes of a Moor chieftain.

Seems the Virgin of El Rocio, or Julia, if you will, made up her mind at an early age her heart could only be entrusted to that special one. If measured-that other heart-would be as pure as hers.

As a young girl she exclusively reserved her soul for God up in Heaven. She figured out on her own the differences between the rewards reserved for the spirit and the passions of the flesh made available by God. In Julia’s way of thinking: “Tangible feelings,” “flutters of the heart,” “he stirring of the flesh,” couldn’t be conceived as tools of the devil! God surely created such sensations for proper use. Somehow, as long as her spiritual obligations were well tended then God would reward her natural yearnings. She resolved–God in his infinite wisdom–bestowed fruits towards his believers. While holding fast to beliefs, God would certainly provide Julia an Earthly companion as loving as she. She fantasized how her and the man of her future would couple and propagate and create other soldiers for Christ.

She rehearsed the tender scenario, the lovemaking, culminating with Julia daydreaming about having children. She’d raise new defenders of the faith. There would be a love that would be so colossal and so different, an explanation had yet to be spoken, or languages available to describe such a love!

During Julia’s time she and her people faced a deluge of invading

Moors from Africa! Brave defenders of the Cross and Crown had their backs’ up against the wall. Almost daily, a forlorn procession show casing faces of worry passed through El Rocio as to reinforce the war-weary Spanish.

One day a recently formed coalition of warriors from the north entered the pueblo. The would-be rescuers shouted out to the town’s people and swore aloud how they were hell-bent on stopping the Muslims advance.

The Moors, a dark tide from North Africa, had Southern Europe engrossed in fear. The holy land fell to thousands of horsemen instigated by the prophet Mohammed. Other Christian enclaves were overcome by hordes of people who acted insane and who emphatically embraced Mohammed’s teachings. Christian territories were in jeopardy, territories with peoples who never could fathom being conquered by such a scourge.

The thought was chilling.

Imagine, Spain being occupied by obtuse souls, heathens, who held fast onto far-out notions about god! Those were catastrophic thoughts.

The Iberian Peninsula mustered itself against those who dared penetrate the sacred shores of Espana. A showdown would ensue on the Costa de Sol.

El Rocians lined up on both sides of a path to encourage the men from the north. El Rocio’s three, bell towers rung out the ominous cadence of ding-dongs as the relief column crammed through the pueblo’s north gate. By then El Rocio’s remaining population was primarily made up of women, children and old people. Because of the emergency, most able-bodied man was at the front. Spaniards were dying by the hundreds of thousands.

Surely God would never let them fall to such pagans. The civilians lined up armed solely with mumbles of encouragement. As a people their spirit was anemic at best. Their ears heard the dispatches. Things appeared bleak. The onlookers wept openly, moaning; grieving aloud, begging for God’s anything The facts were written all over their dark-ages faces. Every El Rocian, with any sort of reasoning understood, if God was not with them they would fall into a living hell and substantiate one of Spain’s darkest nightmares.

Julia stood with her family and neighbors. Caught up in the event she too counted on the fast-moving defenders and God to maintain her hopes. Unable to mount a horse or wield a sword she’d lend to the cause by offering up prayer.

While leading a detachment of horse-mounted cavalry, a young Basque came near. His dashing presence and powerful physique represented the crown’s best. Noble, appearing as proud and forthright, he clutched onto his rambunctious horse’s reigns. He boasted log-like forearms and well-defined biceps. His mounted troop equaled his magnificent appearance.

Their dashing presence bolstered sagging spirits.

With the voice of a man he shouted towards those on the sidelines. With as much encouragement as he could muster he shouted out that he and his men would thwart the evil threatening them. Better yet! . . He promised to annihilate the devils and send them scurrying back across the Mediterranean.

Those familiar with history were aware of the skills displayed by the men from the north. During the not so distant past many-an Andalusian fell before them in the midst of internal conflicts.

In this case, the one-time enemy, traveled south to save the day. The fact loomed that other than God’s infinite mercy the northern allies were the southern peninsula’s last chance.

Suddenly!

Right in front of Julia, the young Basque pulled-up, violently putting a stop to his steed’s trot. An errant child slipped out his mother’s grip and wandered onto the horse’s path. Two more gaits of the horse’s trot would have stomped the child. At first while focusing his attention towards the rubes on the sidelines the young warrior didn’t see the child. The high-stepping, ready-for-battle horse may have, but it didn’t care.

If it weren’t for the eyes of Julia and the Basque horseman linking, just in the nick of time, another tragedy may have ensued. Julia’s eyes flashed danger, and did so before she could shout a warning. Miraculously the horseman pulled up. Once his steed was under control the young officer gave the child’s mother a chance to pull her darling back to safety!

“Ohs!” of relief swelled from onlookers. An old woman, inspired by the action, extended fresh-cut red roses. Seeing her offering the Basque galloped near the old woman and stretching out from his mount to snatch the flowers. Then, he came about, and his horse galloped its way back towards Julia. Pulling up vivaciously, with just as much gusto as before, the young man leaned over and delivered the bouquet to his pretty admirer.

“Ahhs,” from a crowd acknowledged the chivalry! Boy and girl’s eyes connected again.

Then their eyes weren’t subject to imminent danger and they relaxed enough so to take a longer and deeper gander. Their mutual in-depth gaze investigated their innards, galvanized their resolve, coated their souls and anointed their young hearts. An everlasting love was forged.

Within the confines of their minds the noise from the crowd became mute. Thoughts about mutual devotion ran concurrently. Their focus promised truth, faith and devotion.

Julia was positive she found the love she so desired, as strong as hers, a love able to endure for all eternity.

Words of devotion need not be uttered.

Glory, hallelujah! God answered part of her prayers.

Without reservations she bestowed her saved, selflessness, and irrevocable love upon the young, passing-through horseman. She shed any doubts about the strength and far-reaching effects instigated by her love. She was positive they both were in tune with God’s plan.

She figured, the instant devotion rendered by her, along with God’s grace, would mold itself into an impervious shield and become an additional armament, so powerful, it would surely protect her man while in the throes of battle. He’d be invincible!

When the killing ceased and when the Moors were admonished she’d be waiting in El Rocio for his victorious return!

Shortly thereafter, almost before the procession was beyond the walls, Julia mentioned about her sudden metamorphosis. She spilled out astonishing plans to marry the handsome Basque . . . She professed it surely was God’s doing.

As for the young Basque, he too mentioned that he felt compelled to retrieve those flowers just after Julia warned his eyes. It is said he mentioned to a contemporary; that he vowed, and at that point he had more to defend than the Cross-and-Crown.

Sadly it was unbeknown to them; (Julia & the Basque) that their brief corresponding smiles would be the warmest-living memory they’d ever share together. Sorry to say that tender moment would become the apex of their mortal love.

The Basque horseman flushed with the sense of Julia, eagerly took on an additional duty. He proceeded towards the defense of Spain and his new and worthy quest.

Young Julia hid no secrets about her romantic intentions. Since a little girl she voiced an overt outlook about such matters. She was innocent without shame, never hesitant about making her corporal aspirations known, even while amongst the elder women.

Rather than scold the village’s matriarchs absorbed Julia’s open-minded theories about mating. They respected the girl’s honesty. They adopted her aspirations as their own.

Because she was a favorite and the women were concerned they made the sign of the cross over their hearts, praying to God, hoping Julia’s dream world would come true and that they also would be rescued. Those villagers affirmed that a worthy, valid love was condoned in the eyes of God.

The heroic men from the north went down in defeat. A boy man, while dying, sent back a dreaded message. His swan-song, he’d wait for Julia while up in Heaven-as long as it might take. Once together they’d be joined forever.

The painful and piercing news for Julia delivered by retreating the Spaniards. Naturally she absorbed the catastrophic event with a heavy heart. Despite the magnitude of the tragedy she accepted the will of God. She pledged to marry no one and take on no lovers. She remained convinced their “unconsummated love” would be drawn together in the future and bathed in the grace of God and they would share all of eternity.

The Moors swept into the soft-belly of Spain. They slaughtered all who challenged their self-proclaimed infallibility. Filled with self-righteous rage they were determined to manifest the prophecies of Mohammed-they imbued a neurotic willingness to kill in order to please, Allah.

Up to that point, neither plague, nor war, nor natural disaster wrecked more havoc on Spanish society. What terrible sins could the people of Andalusia committed as to suffer so?

One by one the invaders inescapably enveloped the pueblos and cities of the South. After the Moors defeated, pillaged, humiliated and raped most that was fabricated into a distinct society, the Moors began to orchestrate a plan to erase the old legacies-instilling new ones-systematically while branding into seared and defeated bodies and souls a neo-Islamic way of life.

The Moor chieftains incorporated their new domain with rapid precision. The totalitarian regime began to take on a permanent form. Churches were ransacked with their crucifixes chopped down. Their steeples were made pointless as if sanded-down into mosque domes. The South of Spain was to become a Muslim “Seventh Heaven!”

The once zestful plazas that were charmingly surrounded by wide spread boulevards with orange trees and Iberian elements of architecture were strewn with blight along with telltale signs of a defeated society, reinforced by corpses and smell-of-offal. Rotting corpses belonging to those unwilling to tow the line, were ordered “stayed put” as a stinging reminder!

The Moors consolidated with the Caucasians, a mandate, to integrate their blood, god and customs within a bent-and-concise program as to mix with the Spanish. Marriages were arranged. Child bearing Spanish females became the primary targets.

Young Julia and her sisters were trapped by the Muslim web as were all the women. Julia’s four sisters had been subjected to the degradation. Julia remained safe along with other girls hidden away by a caring uncle. A search by the Moors proved too much for the terrorized families. It became impossible to hide the pride cache of Spanish sweetness.

The girls were dragged to the plaza. Peoples hearts sunk deeper, terrified their daughters might-again be subject to additional indiscretions.

A Moorish high-chieftain intervened, putting a stop to what was about to become foaming debauchery. However, his action would be no miraculous reprieve, rather, a time out, and soon enough additional atrocities would be carried out against the girls.

Actions such as those brought home the mind-boggling realism that an atmosphere of lawlessness prevailed, and sorry-to-say those instances became the wicked norm. The once tranquil world of El Rocio was sent into a fiendish hell.

Mercy wasn’t what the Moor chieftain had in mind. His angle was to widen the scope of his own agenda. He inspected the latest booty. He sought an able-bodied maiden for breeding purposes–a fertile one for his prince son-who just arrived from northern Africa. Before he turned his henchmen loose, who were delirious with lust at the sight of the fresh catch, the leader would cherry pick the best of the litter.

The chieftain handled the found girls! Despite her mournful picture Julia’s undeniable beauty stood out. The jackal-faced barbarian with bee-bee eyes zeroed in on the innocence. He “hmmmed” and “ahhhed,” right after he savagely “rrrrripped” away the top of her ankle-length dress!

Julia’s expression: Aghast!

The sight of Julia’s naked breasts was never witnessed by anyone, not her mother or her room-sharing sister.

The sheik strutted around the girl. He exhibited his own vile excitement protruding just below the midsection an excitement that distorted the calmness of his robe’s even flow.

He’d take her himself. Yet something held him back? He stopped momentarily and contemplated. By the time he finished twirling his bushy mustache he made up his twisted mind. She was an appropriate gift, a jewel, especially reserved for an appropriate heir apparent! Besides, what was the difference? He’d spare her since there were a slew of available maidens to disrespect.

He directed a collaborator to speak with Julia. His message was stark and clear. “Be prepared to give yourself wholeheartedly, and with honor, or you’ll meet your maker in hell!” If she refused, before all, a wretched painful death would come to her.

Without being afforded options she was quickly prepared. Appearing awkward, while dressed in Islamic wedding garb Julia was rustled to the place of matrimonial joining. Present were the chieftain, the prospective groom, the Islamic entourage and every surviving resident of El Rocio.

With her unflappable faith still in tack, and despite the heavy odds against her and her people, in Julia’s mind, victory was still but a moment away. Almighty God with all his might and power along with thousands of legions of angels were sure to come to the rescue. Such an alliance would be impervious. No Moorish imp along with his notorious band could be construed as a worthy match for such a juggernaut. With her faith and God’s power, at the mere blink of an eye, they together could crush the scum and cast them off toward a nothingness of oblivion.

At the first hint a Muslim ceremony, with remarkable courage and defiance, Julia truncated the ceremony. And for all to hear–speaking loud and talking fast-she squashed any notions. She stated, “Only Almighty God in Heaven has the power to legitimately bless and bond!”

She made it clear her heart belonged to God and a nameless, brave Basque defender and that both waited for her inside the gates of Heaven. She condemned them all and their plebeian ways to the fires of Hell!

After dealing out such a rebuking she prepared herself . . . surely within moments . . . surely in front of her family . . . and most surely she would be subject to every unmentionable atrocity imaginable once the fury was unleashed by the furious chieftain!

The Moor chieftain rose slowly. His anger was apparent. The henchman in-turn leaned forward anticipating his signal . . . the go-ahead . . . to begin to desecrate, mutilate and butcher.

Almost on cue, a giant of a man stepped forward, as if his actions were rehearsed for ceremonies gone awry. The big man was brandishing a curved scimitar.

Without hesitation he cut at the shoulders, stripping away the ties belonging to the maiden’s Islamic-wedding dress. He exposed her fully developed, virgin breasts for the second occurrence in twenty-four hours.

Likened to a school of frenzied sharks, with eyes bugging out ,other barbarians hopped to it. They licked their chops with anticipation realizing that anyone of them might have a lip-smacking chance to soil the girl. Ghoulish cackles gurgled from inside of the advancing men.

With dwindling, last-bits of strength and courage, the forlorn people of El

Rocio could take no more. In defiance they shouted out praises to Jesus and stormed the chieftain’s men. Somehow, the helpless rubes, who themselves lost everything, could not stand-by and watch the last representative of a free-spirit go down to such treachery without a fight.

Without weapons, armed solely with determination, they chose a suicidal route if only to match their own courage along side Julia’s.

The Moors reacted without prompting. They hacked and hacked the would-be rescuers dropping people in their tracks.

One incredible youth hurdled the perimeter of the altar, dashed past a few henchmen, and was able to knock away the scimitar from the hand of the giant man! Before any of them could respond the youth snatched the sword off the altar’s floor and faced Julia.

His eyes welled with tears. His vision was blurred. He called out for God’s forgiveness. He then went on to preserve Julia’s dignity along with the honor of El Rocio. He committed his final act.

One of the last sons of the turned-hellish El Rocio ran the sword he commandeered right through the pure chest of the beautiful Julia!

She died instantly.

He wasn’t afforded an opportunity to remove the scimitar and further take out a few more scoundrels. Two of the chieftain’s men ran their swords directly through him. He toppled unceremoniously on-top of an already dead Julia.

As chaos and suffering continued, as the two laid there like crushed morning glories, whose youthful expectations a few months before would have never forecasted less trauma-filled, yet sunshine-filled mornings, but during that terrible moment such a rosy outlook on a fulfilling life couldn’t hold up. Rather than partaking in a sweet time of youth served-up with milk and honey their world was invaded by another-way of thinking.

At the same time throughout the pueblo and its surroundings, nature’s path and nature’s splendor went undisturbed and unperturbed. Pretty flowers produced summertime’s sweet nectar. Busy bees buzzed about their business. The drones winged off to do their bee work oblivious about what was occurring not really being aware of anything, only that in reality the leading edge of nature’s evolution appeared out of control. Nature was left no choice but to accept the realism of innocent adolescents being slaughtered in its midst. It became a merciless evil world at the top of the food chain, a world then made up of the synthetic tools of war stemming from some twisted dogma. Their world had then been stomped under the heel of another authority, another doctrine, brutally enforced by forged steel and many horseman. There was absolutely no room put aside for the sanctity of the old way. Minds went crazy!

Within the boundaries of Spain the cries for justice and merciful pleas of a forgotten people fell on deaf ears. Where was God? Where was his legion of angels?

The survivors of those awful sounds and scenes would never forget–never-forget, never-forget, and never-forget those putrid scenes that would haunt their souls for the rest of their days.

Collectively they would maintain the memory but choose to cast away the vivid vision of intolerable gore. Instead of living a visual nightmare they would elevate the likeness of Julia’s beauty and praise her bravery in the form of a statue and a legendary story.

While clenching to their already well-tested faith they were absolutely positive that their brave virgin passed without pain . . . and joined God.

Hundreds of years later when the forces from Africa were finally driven from their El Rocio, the marble statue was erected. The sculpture would go on to symbolize to future generations about her fabulous faith, her strength and her quixotic conviction.

*          *          *

Once the mission of El Rocio was no longer visible Jose Luis Rocio settled back into the carriage for the remainder of his trip. His thoughts drifted from his beloved El Rocio as he focused on the business of the day. He had important people to meet in Seville. He looked forward to this day for a long time.

 

 CHAPTER 2

 

A blaring TV jolted Luke from the midst of his uneasy sleep and disturbing nightmare. The always-turned-on television indicated how lonely the man he’d become. For at least a month the TV was all that Luke peered into with any sort of interest. He didn’t go out. Virtually no one came to visit, except for bill-collectors. The electronic box substituted for “misery’s company.” Somehow he felt more secure, as if the television’s yackity-yack was his watchdog. His inner senses envisioned the TV’s glow as a protective fog that kept him out of the evil of darkness.

His ask-for-nothing buddy show cased one nasty habit, a tendency to turn up its volume, on its own, without warning. The intrusion occurred often while Luke slept.

Suddenly, Luke’s body jack-knifed and lurched upward springing up from the bed while assuming a sit-up position. Luke got his bearings.

His hair was drenched from pillow-sweat. Luke panned the lonely chamber. The room was no boudoi, just a cell, a run-down, smelly condo with rent that hadn’t been paid for in three months.

Despite the outside sunshine the bedroom remained dark due to the always-drawn curtains. Coming to his senses Luke summed all was depressingly normal with him plastered in the same dump his eyelids shut out the night before.

The sight was reprieve for the man who found himself beleaguered by just moments before within swirling dreams consisting of devils and demons. Still, the evaporated nightmare was merely a time out from what evolved as a miserable life complicated and disheveled.

The TV was fixed on CNN.

Luke, still bleary eyed, watched the Rodney King attack. He must have seen the news story at least 150 times.

Luke focused in on every swing. He still marveled how King absorbed those shots while pulverized by a cavalcade of L.A.P.D. nightsticks and he marveled more that he lived to testify.

Whack! Whack-whack-whack! Whack-whack-whack! Whack-whack-whack!

On video Rodney King was getting the whooping of his life.

History notes those scenes were telecast around the world and often.

The case of police brutality didn’t portray America as the “land of the free.” Instead the incident betrayed America. A roving cameraman framed the so-called peacekeepers as they flashed badges and then swung nightsticks. Mean-ass fact shed light on cops as bullies, exposing them as no different than other baton-wielding thugs of the past who wore, badges portrayed in Nazi newsreels.

In retrospect the cops too were victims in a two-faced society, them tossed out into the mean streets each night to protect the rights of its citizens. In lieu of maintaining a safe environment the so-called protectors of the constitution operated as scared-shitless peons.

Luke thought and then said out loud, “What a lucky son-of-a-bitch!”

He figured the beating was King’s ticket to paradise. He’ll probably get two-hundred-grand for every whack!

Thoughts of King’s probable jackpot occurred in Luke’s mind each time he viewed the clip. Whack-whack, whack-whack-whack! While King absorbed the hits Luke reached out from his bed and lowered the volume, Luke thought, “The lucky bastard goes from a low-life, do-nothing nigger to an American folk hero, just because some newsy son-of-a-bitch is out at two-o’clock in the morning playing Man With a Camera.”

Luke also noticed that those days King dressed nice . . . his hair was done-up and he looked downtown, way more upscale than when he first appeared beat up in those mug shots. From Luke’s vantage point there weren’t any visible scars.

“Geez! . . Lucky son of a bitch,” Luke mumbled again. King was cashing in . . . giving interviews, and there was front money, a hefty settlement, a book deal, whatever. The lucky son-of-a-bitch!

Luke would have been willing to take a whooping like that . . . anytime, anyplace. Luke Warm again said, “Lucky!”

*          *          *

“Lucky” was once the fashionable nickname Luke went by since he was eleven. Luke, through no fault of his own, was ridiculously matched to the surname: “Warm!”

The absurd moniker, Luke Warm, was a pegging that shit-for-brains parents tagged on him. By eleven Luke took the initiative, fully aware of the stigma one carries with such a name, a lame name that could sentence him to the “wet-Willie” world of whimpish mediocrity. Luke Warm was nowhere.

Luke summed, no future Major League ball-player, no movie star or US. President had a chance of latching onto dreams while being matched with such a name.

Despite the ridiculousness his out-look on life and self-esteem about self remained positive. Luke had yet to pass through the rights of manhood. A better sounding name was in store . . . a spiffier name could color in his future as rosy. So far, in the classrooms and on the playgrounds of East Hartford events and adolescent accomplishments proved he possessed brains talent and the most important attribute of all, “Luck!”

That’s what other kids called him, “Lucky.” Soon enough he dropped the “Warm.” He was going to be just, “Lucky!” Even the no nonsense nuns complied, seeing fit to call him, Master Lucky, rather than the to-be-forgotten, Luke Warm. Nothing was going to stop Luke. He’d be Lucky, stay hot and remain that way.

By 1992 those once-heady dreams long before materialized and brought with them wealth, fame and even genuine love, but by 1992 fate turned its ugly head and those riches had by then abandoned him. His boyhood days and playground glories had long faded.

His earlier luck and hard work did pay off big time. Yet as fate would have it, there came woeful times, and most the undoing was his doing. That’s when lady luck was no longer the sultry mistress who’d been hinged to his side. That’s when the wheels began to come off his Lucky express.

By 1992, Luke hadn’t referred to himself as Lucky for at least eighteen, busted-out months.

Old habits are hard to break. If out and about, which by then were rare occasion, whenever he was called Lucky, even if it were said affectionately, he’d say in a soft tone that he’d preferred Luke.

The embarrassment and stench permeating pertaining from his most recent folly remained fresh in Luke’s mind. It was then that Luke ceased referring to himself as Lucky just after dropping a bundle on the tables in Las Vegas. Lucky threw away $30,000 and more. It was the last thirty-grand he possessed and a bitter end to claims of liquidity.

The ever-so-willing Vegas casino trusted him, along with his co-signer, Mr. American Express Gold. Reloaded bye a line of credit, he began to shoot away. He commenced firing, shooting to blazes his good credit, credit he first established as a paper boy, back when he first became, Lucky. Lucky got chewed up trying to achieve his impossible dream. Foolhardy, after emptying his pockets, he further steamed by pressing his markers and racking up a debt over $100,000, serious money he couldn’t afford to pay.

Only hours before Lucky was sky high during one of those spur-of-the-moment miss-adventures. Tanked-up with a never-ending desire to sleep with younger and younger women, Lucky charged headfirst. That particular night in question he whirled away from Maui, an empty-headed, nineteen-year-old, taking her to the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Even before the disaster, before Luke flew the thrill seeker and her fantastic-pair of nineteen-year-old tits first class toward flashy Las Vegas, Luke entered a slippery slope being top heavy with debt. Already in bad financial shape the venture proved to be the coupe-de-grace.

It wasn’t difficult for the casinos to swipe money away from a fool, a fool who hadn’t slept in 36-hours. It’s far from a Herculean feat to do the whole deal on a tail-spinning, sorry-assed egomaniac who has run out of luck.

The one-time hot shot found himself ice cold. Being lukewarm would have been a Godsend. For the house it was a pure cinch vacuuming money from a lout who kidded himself that he was still young, sexy and macho. He made a lame effort to impress the bubbled-butted strumpet. A “U.S.D.A.” meat inspection would have stamped her as both tough and tainted. Luke admitted later, clarifying his own stupidity, “The broad was dumber than a door.”

He and the child woman made a spectacle of themselves at the gambling tables. No! Our boy just didn’t meander up to a table and sneak money on a spot. No! That wasn’t his style. His approach, “I am here! I’ll show you hicks how to roll bones. (and he said so with cock surety lacing his eyes at the girl next to him torturing her gum.) “Won’t I, baby? I’ll teach you jerks how to sweat out twenty-ones’ from dead-in-the-water sixteens’ . . . I’ll hit 60% on the roulette table. You prick-faces on the sidelines can watch while I’m doing it to “The Man!” And the rest of you cock-suckers can drool over the sweet-little baby-cakes piece of ass I have clinging on my arm, ’cause none of ya are getting any part of her.”

It was easy to understand, why.

They rooted against Luke.

Lucky haters sprung up from both sides of the mahogany-edged tables. He irritated them;, from the serious gambler whose concentration he distracted, to the young Turks who couldn’t take their eyes off the babe. The men his age were jealous and perhaps when comparing the babe, his babe, with the old ladies, their old ladies waiting up in their own hotel rooms. The wrinkle-faced matrons on the sidelines found both Lucky and the girl revolting. Who could feel sorry for him? He continued to be provocative, lewd and obnoxious as he fondled the girl without shame. Between bad rolls, missed-out spins, and losing hands she soothed his ego and shamelessly groped his crotch.

The mushy stuff soon went by the wayside as the not-so-Lucky suffered loses. Annoyed, he distanced himself from the clinging babe. The croupiers turned over every card with Lucky-defeating conviction! It was their way of dealing with personalities like Mr. Lucky.

It was easy to root against him. Only a big-time, Major League, downtown fool, if there was one in the vicinity, would have cheered for Lucky or Luke on that fateful night.

Luke’s good nature wilted with him no longer the same generous sport portrayed earlier. He insisted the girl return $500 worth of spending money he laid on his date while on the way, money he promised her she could spend on what ever she desired.

“Give it back to me, bitch! . . . I’ll give it back when I win.”

It was their last $500.

After the shellacking Luke’s emotions unraveled like tackle spinning off a fishing reel. He maxed out the AX card and further went down the drain. After his painful encounter with “The ‘Man,” Luke’s only alternative was to escape.

Losing everything crushed any sensual desires. He abandoned the bimbo.

The unlucky slob never bothered to take the time or was provided the chance at sampling the kid’s corporal fruits. A few days later while back home the mouthing off bimbo blabbered in front of his pals in a “What-bus?” manner, “He got nothing! . . . And furthermore, I don’t think very much of Mr. Lucky, anymore! He isn’t the gentleman he pretended to be!”

Lucky’s only sexual encounter with the woman-child turned out to be an earlier stewardess-interrupted hand job under a United Airlines blanket.

Even Luke would lament upon his return to Maui, “How many guys? . . .” he’d mouth later . . . “How many guys blow over a hundred grand on a know-nothing chic and only get themselves half-a-hand job?”

Falling to panic Luke sprinted out of the casino. He bolted down the strip, only to slow down when overwhelmed with exhaustion.

Rather than aimlessly roaming the Vegas strip as a mumbling spectacle, he checked into a cheap motel, locked himself away for three days and contemplated suicide. As the stuff wore off the sad facts didn’t.

He curled up on the top of the bedspread, a quilted one he never bothering to turn it down. In a fetal position he cowered. His loser’s arms were tightly wrapped around the front of himself. He was glued into a pathetic loser’s shoes-shoes you wouldn’t want to be in.

He lay on his side. The pair of Bally slip-ons was hinged at the heels. His feet moved like scissors. The rest of him rocked and rocked and rocked.

An ear intentionally pressed up against the wall next door would have been privy to the pathetic cries of a broken man, a sad song. Too blue to sleep, too everything to do anything he “why meed” through the night. To his shame he didn’t have the balls to finish the job.

He eventually gathered himself and headed back to Hawaii. Some credit might be given to the then loser for flashing a speck of common sense. He trashed his lucky-Lucky. Once home he handed in his “LUCKY,” Hawaiian, vanity, license plate.

*          *          *

Luke peeled himself off the wrinkled dirty sheets that hadn’t been changed for weeks.

The rest of the faded and wrinkled lay silent before him.

His out-of-date wardrobe cluttered the bedroom’s floor appearing more-like the way Luke felt. There was tossed about walking shorts and bathing suits, with waistbands stretched out of shape by a fat man’s belly.

Laundry littered the foot of the bed spilling over onto the floor and onward toward the hallway, them lying twisted as if mangled by a serial killer. The darker shaded belongings appeared as if they flew through a lint-storm. Rolled up sweat socks were scattered like errant billiard balls just broken on a pool table.

A Koa wood dresser had been reduced to a scratched-up bench. Its dull and sticky surface carried the pocket-carrying effects of a near-worthless man. There was a long-ago photo of a once happy family taken during happier times. The photo remained as a distant memory going mostly unnoticed. Luke faced another worthless day.

Luke spotted a roach, the smoking kind, dangling on the edge of the ashtray. He reached out and lifted it towards his lips.

With the yet-lit but smoked-down joint pressed tightly between his lips he stretched and then pulled himself out of bed. Luke limped from stiffness. He trudged into the bathroom. Steadying his body over the toilet he controlled the flow with both of his hands. The bathroom could have used a good cleaning.

Mr. Mold and Mr. Grungy formed dirt rings round the insides of the tub. He cringed at the sight the shower curtain, a far cry from its store-bought look. The white-and-gold patterned linoleum was scuffed. Stuck to it was tissue paper. It was carpeted with renegade body hairs, hairs that jumped ship and abandoned his sinking body while the getting was good.

The sink-dirty: peppered with beard stubs and remnants of hardened shaving cream scraped off the face of a man who hardly shaved. Florescent-colored toothpaste contrasted against the soiled basin. The basin’s porcelain was faded to a yellowish din. The smudged faucets filth was so complete the dinginess blocked any reflection back towards Luke’s sad eyes.

He avoided the reflection of the bathroom mirror, amply polka-dotted from splashed water and other unmentionables. Luke thought about brushing his teeth but didn’t have the desire to dilute the marijuana taste of the roach. The residue left a distinct flavor affording a taste he’d prefer not dissolve. The flavor of the smoked down doobie remained as one of those small pleasures, probably more so than what that Luke expected during the on-coming day.

Still naked he made his toward the other crummy room of his sorry flat. Out there his other TV played host.

CNN’s highlights from the Rodney King cops trial was playing for the benefit of no one other than a well-worn, beer-stained sofa disgracing Luke’s unliving room.

Luke felt awful yet still lit the half-inch joint. He wasn’t sure why he felt so bad? In his present mind he always felt awful. The night before he hadn’t ventured out nor gotten fucked up. He gave it some thought while lying in his bed. He remembered being jealous of the birds–jealous about the “tweeties” then happily returning to their roosts. He listened intently as the birds sang “hasta manana” towards the fast-sinking sun.

Lack of desire pressed down on his chest, a lack too heavy for a tired dilapidated heap to rid himself of while a chronic case of the blues nailed him to the putrid mattress. The night before he simply rolled over and tried to bury his woes, just before a beautiful breath-taking Hawaiian sunset, of which if conscious, Luke wouldn’t have bothered to marvel at anyway. He decided to suspend his life, and just close his eyes and not bother to face anything or anyone.

*          *          *

Going out for Luke wasn’t what it once was, when the hotshot Lucky paraded himself as the toast of the town. In Lahaina, on the island of Maui, he once operated a renowned establishment named after himself: Lucky’s.

It was an eatery with flair. Lucky boasted his fame. The bistro flashed a gastronomic reputation for feeding the rich and famous. The restaurant was strategically situated across from the pristine, picturesque, Pacific Ocean. Its eccentric founder operated the establishment in flamboyant fashion with his pretty and affable wife named, Debra. On any-given night one could find the biggest names in show-biz and sports casually lounging around Lucky’s tables. The place was usually packed with eager diners despite the lofty prices.

Locals and tourists dropped in to sample his mouth-watering pasta, but perhaps more than the sensational fair they flocked to Lucky’s to perhaps be entertained by the dynamo whose name symbolized their every dream.

When on the floor Lucky he held court and pranced around his eatery like Cock-Robin. Lucky landed himself at tables like a ferrying helicopter with barfly precision. He’d shake hands and slap backs, mostly fat backs. He’d play kissy-face huggy-bear with rich do-nothings. Always a ladies man, he complimented the women on their beauty and known talents.

With irreverence and vulgarity he spread juicy gossip and some exploits of some of his famous patrons. Lucky portrayed the subjects of his stories in colorful language, perhaps language not well suited for her majesty’s ears’.

Lucky’s verbal depictions were considered by people not used to hearing such, as words as both shocking and vulgar. Often it was as if every other word, especially the pronouns, were replaced with compound-nouns such as this, “cock-sucker, or that, cock-sucker or the, prick-face!”

The affronts used in his stories, by Lucky’s standards, were considered as folksy namesakes, setting people up in his scenes in such terms.

Those nasty-sounding monikers lent themselves to his tasty tidbits of the day. During dinnertime his restaurant’s round Koa tables became more like bouquets; flowered with well-tanned diners, all duked-out in their recently bought vacation wear. Lucky would spin from a familiar party at one table and then interrupt foursomes in the middle of their two-hundred and fifty dollar meal, which didn’t include the gratuity.

Lucky would pull off a Henny Youngman routine. He’d fit himself into a chair and stay awhile. Those lucky-Lucky patrons would be treated to his raw wit, up close and personal, all mixed in with a hefty-batch of turn-your-face-red irreverence.

There were spoken sentiments that such behavior could alienate Lucky. Sometimes the unsuspecting diners reacted in shock. One might think such carryings on might disenfranchise him from a prudent business-minded community. It wasn’t the case. Lucky was perceived as way more than some foul-mouthed, vulgar rogue.

Despite being outlandishly silly there were countless instances when he rendered sought-after advice. He’d take the time to introduce an up-and-coming entrepreneur, a guy he liked, towards a for-real kingpin. There were instances when that “intro” was the beginnings of a sensational deal.

Lucky performed random acts of kindness, special favors, even for unknowns. His “Good Samaritan” nature had him phoning contacts; perhaps a general-manager at a five-star Maui hotel to help straighten-out way-laid visitors’ having difficulty with accommodations.

At times he’d go so far to bring home an Oregonian with his wife and kids so to stay the night, whose reservations were no-where to be found.

He expected nothing in return. He’d shower charity seekers with contributions, doing so unpretentiously without fanfare. He’d escort those with their hands’ out back into his office and write the check himself.

Still though, within the restaurant, while double-parked at one of his diners’ tables, in his wise-guy nature he’d razz and kid. If feeling in an extra frisky and before departing his awe-struck diners table . . . and just before deserting them for another venue, Lucky’s favorite salutation might be that he’d shout out to a busboy within earshot and for all to hear, “Buy these, ‘prick-faces,’ a drink on me!”

The people ate up Lucky’s act while wolfing down his pasta. Super stars, athletes and pragmatic statesmen drooled at the thought that perhaps, just once, there might be a chance of being called a “cock-sucker,” or a “prick-face,” by the unflappable Lucky.

Lucky would laugh and say, “Guys should be thrilled about being called, prick-face.” According to his lucky philosophy, “prick face,” was a compliment. He’d pontificate in a “he-he” manner, “What the fuck! If ya had a face that looked like a prick . . . why the women would love, ya, wouldn’t they?”

During those boom times the money poured in faster than the foul words rolled off his tongue. Lucky’s evolved as a thriving business. The staff earned big money; the waiters, cocktail-waitresses, bartenders, busboys, cooks and dishwashers received perks and hefty bonuses each Christmas. Many were employed since the establishment’s opening, ten years before.

Maintaining, good help was a testimonial to a rock-solid establishment and somewhat of a rarity on a place like Maui with a transient labor force.

His vulgarity had nothing to do with his benevolence. “Lucky looks after his own,” he’d boaster. Sometimes while doing his Henny Youngman or Rodney Dangerfield and while eating off the plate of a shocked diner, he could be over-heard bragging how his bartenders all raked in six figures.

Eating off the very plates of his clientele was one of his favorite pranks. He often asked an unsuspecting diner how they were enjoying their meal?

Most of the time the patron’s mouth was still stuffed with food. Forcing themselves to first swallow then to answer; they did their best to be polite, but at the same time, they’d usually mumbled how the cuisine was superb.

Notorious about never giving a sucker a break or a diner as much as one-second to answer, Lucky would snatch a fork or use his fingers and snatch the diner’s entrée right off the plate and devour the said dish in front of a flabbergasted customer!

He’d jam the chow down his gullet with gusto. Then he’d, “Hmmm,” close his eyes and further “purr” and say, “That’s the fuckin’ best! . . . I understand why you ordered it.”

Without shame he’d praise, praising the attributes of his eatery. “This is the greatest restaurant this side of the fuckin’ Mississippi. There might be a couple in New York a little better. Those cock-suckers in Beverly Hills don’t know what the fuck their eating.”

Then, as was the norm, Lucky would bark, while flashing his boyish grin, and while extending a friendly handshake towards the direction of his startled prop: “Give the prick face another order and make sure you put it on my tab.”

On rare occasions customers beat Lucky to the punch and spit-out perhaps that Lucky’s offering was just so-so. He’d ignore the affront and would gobble up the plate’s contents anyway. Then he’d tell the cock-sucker he or she had taste like shit anyway, but with no remorse and at the same time, to placate the customer, he ordered the staff to offer the maybe not-such-a-sport-of-a-customer something else, something more to his liking.

If his prop were slow or tentative to come out shock, Lucky snatched at the initiative and reorder for them, “Give this cock-sucker a double order of fresh Onaga!

“Yeah,” he’d say with confidence, pleased about his choice, “Make it the way I like it . . . Ya know . . .with the grape sauce and white wine . . . and make it fast, place the order in front of all the other cock-suckers so they get it rapido! Oh yeah, put the prick’s tab on my house bill.”

It would be a rare occurrence if patrons became flustered, with his antics. They absorbed the rubs as endearing, a gesture of being acknowledged by the owner filled with panache, the mischievous one who loved to eat and seek two-way pleasure while having ribaldry fun.

Though married including four school-aged children, Lucky remained every-bit a ladies man. His troupe of bright-eyed, tropical-dressed, well-tanned, long-legged beauties, who bounced around his cafe serving a myriad of tropical drinks, willingly quenched the thirst of a man approaching middle age.

After dinner performers and recording artists affiliated with jazz, rock and new-age music played ’til early morning hours. It wasn’t unusual for musical greats such as: George Benson, Al Demeola or Mick Fleetwood who found serenading satisfied diners, only after they, themselves chowed down gratis meals.

They played for free. Their cameo appearances placed Lucky’s as a joint where anything could happen on any given night.

When the restaurant was finally shut down for the night, it wasn’t unusual to have Lucky surrounded with his usually empty-pocketed entourage, all sipping on chilled Dom Perrignon, while snorting the best available cocaine or them puffing huge joints rolled-up with the infamous Maui-wowie.

He’d hang in there long after Debra departed for home. Debra suspected his philandering but as a devoted wife she chose to look the other way.

She was well aware of the financial aspects and alternate lifestyle available without the affable Lucky and his mother-load. Perhaps those alternatives weren’t all that alluring without Lucky. It wasn’t just the money. She loved Lucky and remained confident she still possessed the luring power that always drew him back, a pull that never failed. The fact remained, there was a very special side of Lucky she so cared for and enjoyed. Their home life was good. He spent countless hours and happy times with the family and friends while taking breathers from his gallivanting.

He owned a magnificent home on the ocean, more like a palace to be drooled over, with good-sized pools and bubbling Jacuzzis. The lair was ultra spacious for Hawaii. It boasted game rooms with children and grown-up toys. It also boasted cuvee holes offering solitude, rooms away from the action. The house was alive with his precocious kids, including the surrounding neighbors’ kids. He kept a small efficient staff so to whip up some sinful epicurean delights whenever he got the urge. Friends, relatives and lots of free loaders took advantage of the generosity provided by the rich-and-famous Lucky.

Lucky and his cronies played backgammon, gin-rummy and other parlor games for hours on end, while watching sporting events from Lucky’s big-screened Mitsubishi. His pals were a cast of characters, misfits, in their own right, whose own foul language complimented Lucky’s dirty mouth. Lucky and his cohorts flashed outrageous irreverence in the presence of straight people. Guests from the more-structured, suit-and-tie, nine-to-five world outside Hawaii witnessed the zany antics, in the form of vignettes; skits packed with gut-busting humor. They carried on, insulted each other, smoking their dope in the open and in front of the children.

They teased the kids relentlessly.

The kids couldn’t help but be delighted at the men’s sophomoric behavior, which to them was filled with the devil. The jumping-on-the-furniture kids marveled. With each roll of the dice the boisterous men cursed away and the kids squealed, wondering just how Lucky and his friends could get away with such shenanigans.

The kids, including Lucky’s own, viewed the buffoons as a special lot, unlike anything at home.

Debra’s mother-like instincts handed out stern warnings in a corrective manner and she would wave her index finger towards the children, further indicating; “None of you had better talk that way when you grow up.” Then she’d go on to defend the loud-mouth degenerates by saying, “Even though they talk dirty, they’re still good men, they just act stupid and silly after smoking all that reefer and they curse too much. None of you had better not smoke any of that stuff or you’ll wind up looking and acting like those mush heads.”

“Mush-heads! Mush heads! . . .” The kids would run around the house screaming at the stoned men engrossed in their games, seemingly oblivious to what was being said about them.

Lucky’s namesake held true during most of the gambling sessions and he’d have no remorse taking those “prick faces'” money. They in-turn, the boys as he called them, flashed no qualms about losing, as if it was destined. Their money being sucked into their buddy’s pocket substantiated that Lucky was a lucky cocksucker.

Lucky, similar to other self-driven men; wasn’t just satisfied at parlaying himself into a wealthy and famous restaurateur. He dove head first into other enterprises. He opened Lucky’s Motors, an up-scale auto-leasing company. His New York accounting firm advised him to spread liquid assets in diversified directions and convert portions of his holdings into unrelated businesses. Some prudent losses might be helpful at tax time.

Maui was not a worthwhile place to purchase expensive autos. With the bad roads, dust, and lack of good service, autos rapidly lost their dollar value. Value isn’t something attached to a four-year-old Jaguar. There weren’t enough viable clientele to support such a used car market on an island in the middle of the Pacific. There were no Jaguar dealerships. Most of the high-priced popular models preferred by the Yuppie generation weren’t available during those days on the Hawaiian isle.

Maui burgeoned during the ’80s. Stemming from the ranks of its newer citizenry was a crop of wealthy people came from a vineyards worth of real-estate-speculators, contractors and hustling entrepreneurs. Being able to provide them with BMW’s, Jags, Porches, Mercedes and Lexus’ intrigued Lucky. He convinced some of his steady customers it was more practical to lease a car and just hand it back after a couple of years.

He wielded impressive statistics; how it made sense, especially for taxes. Armed with facts and enthusiasm Lucky put together a myriad of tasty leasing deals, deals made over a piping hot plate of Lucky’s food. Lucky possessed a short list of wealthy Mainland contacts. Soon enough he leased cars all over the country.

Besides attracting Oscar-winners and marquee named athletes, Lucky’s also attracted lechers and connivers, charlatans such as those slithery types implicated in the junk-bond frauds and the savings-and-loan scandals.

Lucky invested a bundle tied up in those scams. Blinded, he became when the consciousness turned to greed. With a fat cash flow he jumped into the scams before the scandals were exposed.

Thus the slide began, punctuated when his auditors informed him about the embezzlement; two-weeks after he threw a lavish party for his retiring secretary, Peg.

Seems over the years the efficient-trusted Peg generously helped herself to substantial amounts of Lucky’s money absconding assets from the restaurant’s employee-retirement fund. Worse cropped up, when discovering, according to federal law, Lucky was personally responsible to insure and replace those funds. She cleverly collateralized those funds, by exercising “power of attorney,” an authorization granted by Lucky himself.

She lent those funds to a number of her own grandiose schemes that miserably failed.

Managers for the retirement fund discovered the impropriety. Subsequently government agents were sent to Lucky’s to conduct a complete audit.

Lucky’s fortunes began to turn sourer after the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War. Nobody was leasing vehicles. That year’s recession took its toll on the tourist industry. Half-a-dozen other minor enterprises were soaking up his financial resources including his Lucky’s Limo Service.

Rents, payroll, mortgage-payments, insurance, taxes and personal expenses squealed to be paid, liabilities at an all-time high. Lucky was getting into trouble.

Still, Lucky remained confident. “Fuck those, cock suckers! There’s always money to be made.” With the stakes mounting, Lucky’s wife Debra announced she over tolerated his indiscretions.

True or not, she laid part of the blame about their financial difficulties on the trust he placed in people. “You’re a fool!” she professed. While searching for a shoulder to lean on, Lucky reluctantly admitted to his faults. She pressed further, warning him, if he didn’t change immediately she and the kids were gone forever back to her native Ohio.

Lucky was aware that down deep Debra was a no-nonsense woman. Cognizant he was that she tolerated his outrageous behavior only because she was a loyal and devoted woman. Right then was no time to gamble the reality of losing her. He promised change, immediate and noticeable change.

Debra and Lucky made love like honeymooners for the next couple of days. Lucky found confidence injected back to him by a rejuvenated Debra. They decided to reemerge as a team, turning positive that everything would turn out all right.

The then lagging restaurant business could no longer afford to remain opened for breakfast and lunch. With the economy, those who used to order fatadas were then having ninety-nine cent specials at one of the fast food joints cropped up within a half block of Lucky’s. Its dinner crowd was still good but a far cry from what it once was. Lucky, remained upbeat, he still held court, and he still cursed like a trooper. His loyal clientele were consolatory about his well-publicized financial problems. On a small place like Maui they say if you fart, in Lahaina, they hear it out, in Hana.

Lucky refused to let go his sense of humor.

One day, while playing golf he was reminded his business was becoming everybody else’s. Lucky’s foursome included three-famous Country & Western singers, household names and big yucks in the business.

The singers chuckled at Lucky’s constant use of marijuana, the real potent kind, with him puffing away for eighteen holes. Lucky, with doobies stuck too and hanging off his lips, drove long drives, made chip shots and two putted while flashing a test pilot’s nerves of steel.

When asked if he played better while straight or high? Lucky stopped for a moment, contemplated, then wise guyed, “I don’t really know, Willie, I’ve never played straight . . . ”

When the foursome was hoofing off the Eighteenth hole they were pigeon holed by a man identifying himself by saying he was a frequent Maui visitor.

“Lucky! Lucky! I’m Ken Simpson, from Omaha. I don’t know if you remember me.”

The man never noticed the three music “bigwigs.” Ken Simpson continued, “I’ve eaten at your restaurant a hundred times, “I’m a big fan of yours and I only wanted to say . . . I’m sorry all the trouble you’re having.”

Lucky held his tongue and sized up the geek. The whole time the man spoke Lucky moved his head up and down or sideways in sync with the man’s and his facial expressions waltzed with the man’s consolatory comments. Lucky then addressed the man.

Extending his arms and with faced palms about eighteen-inches apart; he affirmed the man’s observation!

“Yeah, did you see that, Kenny boy . . . how did I miss a putt like that? I can’t believe it myself! Maybe you’ll be a good cock-sucker and give me a couple of lessons . . .” Lucky then winked at the man.

The man backed-off slowly miffed by Lucky’s comeback. He turned to his wife who was sushing him, “I only wanted to say that I was sorry . . .”

Lucky flashed the smile of a leprechaun. The foursome moved on. The others patting Lucky on the back and all wore smiles.

With the restaurant closed in the daytime Lucky spent afternoons at the auto-leasing agency attempting to hustle Mainland clients over the phone. Lucky continued car-leasing deals nationwide. Those Rolls Royce clients dried up. George Benson, one of Lucky’s best clients, hadn’t leased a car in ten months. He’d lament to his cronies how Texas was a financial disaster and Colorado, worse.

One afternoon the phone rang. It was Harry Gross, a high-flying, self-made tycoon from Honolulu. Harry and Lucky had met through the restaurant and Harry also leased a few cars from Lucky.

Lucky and Harry shared a helter-skelter relationship. Harry was notorious and relentless when doing business. Give him a price, retail, wholesale, at cost and he’d still have the audacity to attempt to Christian you down. The dichotomy of their relationship, while throwing money around at Lucky’s, Harry personified the essence of a real sport, him sending over expensive bottles of wine to this one or that one, sometimes complete strangers normally with unescorted females with great tits. But when it came to conducting any sort of pragmatic business he turned into a penny-pinching miser. Harry wasn’t one who adhered to “a win-win situation!”

If Harry couldn’t somehow squeeze ya the deal was no fun.

Harry beat Lucky down on every deal.

When hearing it was Harry on the other end of the line, Lucky’s mind snapped, if it’s business I’m letting it go. “I don’t need Harry Gross right now in my life,” was Lucky’s sentiment.

Lucky’s firm procured a pair of his-and-hers Jaguars to Harry and his wife. He also leased a Mazda, RX7 for his daughter in college and a Legend, NSX for Harry’s speed-crazy son, Gary.

Harry, the quintessential byproduct from the old school, maintained the stamina to press even when saying Lucky was in a meeting or even out of the office. He referred to by Lucky’s normally affable office girls as Atillas the Huns. They were hip to just how obnoxious Harry was, along with being privy witnessing how after every deal that was supposedly set in stone Harry would start his act all over again. That aspect of the man’s personality was a trait Lucky despised, as did his office staff. It was always the same story. Lucky would explain that he thought they banged out firm business.

“No! No Lucky. Listen to me! I had my fingers crossed. I haven’t agreed. Schmuck! We were only speculating what the deal might look like if we loaded all the bases. You’re not even in the ballpark . . .”

Harry would demand extras; the floor mats and double-tinted glass. Long after the cars were delivered it seemed like every time he’d get a bug up his ass Harry would call and pester, quick to remind Lucky the cars off the dock were without a full tank of gas.

“C’mon, Lucky!” he’d rant, “What the fuck kind of fucking businessman are you anyway?”

Lucky seethed knowing Harry figuring when he called like that he must have an audience and he was showing off. A rude man, Harry, while in the midst of meetings, often shelved the business at hand and would reach for the phone and call an unrelated person to manipulate and intimidate while still smiling at the bewildered ones sitting across from him. The practice may have been some sort of forecast, a warning, how he could turn intimidating, a lesson of his wrath so to speak. Lucky recalled witnessing those situations with Harry in his office.

“Lucky! Schmuck! Don’t tell me . . . You could have flown someone over from Maui, one of your boys and meet the cars at the end of the barge’s ramp, then your schlepper could have driven the car to a station and topped-off the tank . . . couldn’t ya? ”

Harry would call from his cars and complain about the paint’s shine while at a stop light, or the air conditioning, or that the high-fidelity radio wasn’t up to snuff, ” . . . the radio’s a piece of junk, it’s got a tinny sound . . . .Listen! Listen to this shit!” Harry then would hold his cell phone to the car’s speakers. “Ya can’t even tell if that’s fucking Barry Manilow; it sounds like Rudy Valley. . . . I could have leased the cars anywhere else and for cheap. The only reason I decided to business with you in the first place was I because I wanted to throw a bone Lucky boy’s way; it’s only out of the kindness of my heart. I like you, Booby, so why don’t you take care of me?

“You should play ball with me, Lucky. I know a lot of important people. You know I got a big mouth. Work with Uncle Harry and a lot more action will come Lucky’s way. Who’s cock do I have to suck to get Uncle Harry a new radio and speakers?”

That was Harry but despite Harry Gross’s obnoxiousness, socially he flashed a certain panache that Lucky enjoyed. The two entrepreneurs spent some good-buddy moments. Harry made points with Lucky the first instance they met, Harry taking the initiative while bolstering Lucky’s ego, indicating, “You’re the best restaurateur, anywhere, fantastic! I’ve eaten ’round the world; the food here is just marvelous. And you know, you could be a real mensch and introduce your Uncle Harry to some of those cocktail waitresses you got running around here, you know, Lucky I like to come to Maui, so to get away from the old-lady and all.”

It was merely schmoozing. Yet a bond formed and often there was partying into the wee hours and Lucky fit the bill, as a solid confidant, a soundboard, during rare revealing times when Harry complained about some of his own misfortunes. Harry spit out a black ascorbic humor when referring to schmucks and schnorers he did business with and unfolded his penchant for get-evenness and how he especially “got-down-and-dirty” when referring to who he called his bitch-neurotic wife. He spelled out the pitfalls when speaking of his spoiled brat kids. He hissed how the wife and kids were spendthrifts.

He’d lie to his wife, saying he was off to San Francisco or LA., to do business, and then sneak over to Maui, usually pampering himself in one of Maui’s luxury hotels after beating down the general manager. He snorted incredible amounts of cocaine and began to run around Maui, side kicking with Lucky, both gallivanting mostly in the backseats of a Lucky limo accompanied by young, empty heads with great bodies and pretty faces.

Lucky introduced Harry to girls who pretended he was young and handsome, well, at least for a whirlwind night.

It wasn’t all that of an easy task for the girls. Despite the golden tan and show of big money, Harry was unsightly with a twisted mug that could have been molded from an old-brown shoe. Errant food flew grotesquely out of his open mouth when he ate. His breath was like shit.

Regardless, Lucky and Harry shared some wild nights. Nights, that if documented, would have made for steamy reading.

*          *          *

Harry shouted into the phone’s receiver.

“Lucky baby! Tell me what’s going on?” a salutation signaling it wasn’t a business call.

Never giving Lucky a chance to answer, “Listen! I’m coming over tonight. Can you pick me up at the airport?”

“Sorry, Harry I have plans. But I can make arrangements for a limo to go get you. What time do you arrive?”

“No! No! Look schmuck, I want you to pick me up.”

“Sorry, I have plans with Debra. We’re going over friends.”

“Lucky, baby! Do you forget who you’re talking to? Look schmuck!

There’s this deal. I need to talk to you. It could mean millions in both of our pockets. I’m telling you, this is the big time, and you shouldn’t pass on such an important opportunity.

“You can have dinner with your Maui friends anytime. Just call, Debra, tell her you are going to be a little late, she’ll understand. Tell her uncle Harry’s in town; give her my love and give those brats of yours a kiss and a hug from me. I land at seven-thirty.”

He was gone with a click.

Lucky telephoned Debra, not sure he should even bother, not convinced that it was in his best interest to meet with Harry. The past few weeks between he and Debra had been wonderful, the way he remembered in the old days. ‘Why disappoint Debra for that matter?’ flashed past his brain.

She seemed to have erased the past. He realized her tolerance was at an all-time low when it came his old happy-go-lucky ways. She could make good on her threat. He left a message on the recorder. Later, he figured, he’d reach her from his cellular.

He considered: Maybe Harry was on to something dynamic. Because of his present situation he could use a decent break.

Harry’s profession was that of a concessionaire. He earned huge sums of cash hawking hamburgers and hot-dogs at World Expositions and stuffing tourists’ stomachs with millions of slices-of-pizzas, He orchestrated such for twenty-some years, on four continents from Brussels to Osaka.

During binges, Harry boasted about his money-making deals with the Expo people based out of Paris saying, how his people erected cheap prefabs, equip the kitchens with second-hand appliances, and then with product he could buy in bulk, attain some sponsors and bring in a good size profit by employing low-paid help. With everyday high traffic at something like a World’s Fair those establishments became cash cows for six-dizzying months.

He explained in detail, about showing up in the said town months before the fairs and scavenging bankrupt restaurants used-equipment at bargain-basement prices. Both being experts in the field they knew that during good or bad times there’s a never-ending list of restaurants going “BK.”

After the fair ran its course, Harry sold-off the equipment in bulk and for cheap, demolished the buildings, and then took the money and ran.

He supposedly had a cracker-jack team scattered worldwide. Every few years he’d put out a call to his eclectic-team of Gypsy restaurateurs, create a staging area somewhere on Earth, take off, land, make a beachhead, and dole out fast food at a ferocious pace.

Harry took a shot at recruiting Lucky a few years back just before an Expo, one held in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1982, but as usual Harry’s obnoxious demeanor kicked in and he was so overbearing Lucky chose to pass. During the good ole days a guy like Lucky didn’t need to get entangled with a creep like Harry.

Lucky was still unable to raise Debra, from the phone inside one of his limousines while on the way to the airport.

Out front on the curb, stood Harry, with a big-smile, holding onto his carry-on. He was book-ended by two-sensational blondes.

Lucky opened the back door of the limo and scooted over.

“Lucky! . . Lucky! . . How you doing? Say hi here to Heather and Carmen.”

Harry herded the two girls into the rear of the limo.

Lucky was still somewhat steaming about having to meet Harry and snapped, “Where’d ya pick up these two?”

Lucky couldn’t afford having husband-cheating word eking its way back to Debra about being in the company of women, especially with Harry.

“‘Pick-up!’ . . . ‘Pick-up,’ did you say? . . You should watch your mouth, fella! Why, Heather, Carmen and I are all old friends! . . The girls and I are practically family. We’ve all known each other for almost twenty-five minutes.”

Harry’s mug suggested he was being ever so suave.

He turned to the girls and said, “Girls, you’ll have to excuse my bitchy friend. He’s a little grouchy and a real fuck-head. See, if I call him, prick face and he says noting he probably lost a couple of hundred in backgammon.”

Lucky wasn’t thrilled being the target of Harry’s smart-assed humor, but his own ego couldn’t ignore the attractive women and he decided to gather himself. “Excuse me, ladies! Mr. Harry summoned me out here at a moment’s notice. He implored there was important business. I didn’t prepare myself to meet two, nice-looking girls such as you, or to find you in the company of such a louse.”

Heather answered, “Oh, don’t mind us, Mr. Lucky. We don’t want to be an inconvenience or anything like that. If you and Harry need to talk business or something we can take a taxi.”

“Nonsense! You just stay where you are!” interjected Harry. “Lucky and I have all week-end long to talk business, don’t we, Lucky?”

“What-ever you say, Harry.” Lucky sighed, perhaps thinking, ‘what was the use?’

“So, where are you girls staying?” asked Harry in a sheepish manner.

Harry fingered a filtered Merit from a gold case.

Carmen answered, “Well, we haven’t decided yet. We figured there’d be lots of nice places to stay over here.”

“That there are! That there are! But, I know the very best. First I must warn you . . . I have great difficulty taking “no” for an answer! I’ll recommend that you both be my guests and accept my hospitality and you both should fix your wonderful selves inside my penthouse at the Grand Hyatt.

“You girls can have your own adjoining suite, right next to mine! You don’t have to worry about a thing. It won’t cost you a dime. It’s fabulous, and I personally guarantee you’ll have a marvelous time.”

There was a silence. Lucky’s senses remained uneasy. Harry placed a look of anticipation on his pedantic face.

“What do you think girls?”

Without further hesitation, in unison, the two dumb-dumbs said, “Geez! That sounds great!”

Within the first five minutes after the limo pulled away the airport’s curb, Harry was laying out lines of coke on the fold-down tray.

While the girls snorted, Harry leaned close to Lucky with a rolled up hundred-dollar bill between his thumb and index finger and in almost a whisper commanded. “Here, shit-head, take a blast. Maybe it will take the edge off. . . What the hell’s the matter with you anyway? Your old buddy shows up with two gorgeous women, who soon enough will pretend they’re crazy about you, and here you are acting like I’m here to collect money or something.

How’s business, asshole?”

“It could be better,” answered Lucky, not wanting to go into matters, especially in front of the girls.

Ten minutes from the curbside, Lucky, Harry and the girls were snorting their brains out.

Fifteen minutes away from the airport, Harry and Heather were playing “footsy-wootsy” and “lovey-dovey.” Lucky was getting chummy with Carmen.

Twenty-five minutes away from the airport’s curb, in full-view of each other evolved a steamy scene, where both men were receiving ferocious blow jobs.

Fifty minutes away from the airport’s curb and twenty-five minutes after the gals yanked out the cocks of the two whore-dogs, and just three-minutes after the rogues’ members’ were jammed back behind their zippers, the last ten minutes by which Lucky had to instruct the driver to continue to drive around the block as finally the foursome tumbled-out of the limo, wrinkled, askew and giddy, smack in front of Maui’s Grand Hyatt.

Harry was so wired he had difficulty communicating with the hotel’s host at the check-in counter.

The bell captains picked up on the scene.

Lucky, a standout on a small place such as Maui, attracted immediate attention. The scenario was familiar and the bell captains couldn’t help but be jealous. The twenty-dollar tips being doled out by Lucky helped soothe their envy.

In between lewd sessions, while both girls were passed out from too-much ‘oodie-ah-ah,’ and too-much booze, mixed with doses of cocaine Harry pitched Lucky about his latest scheme.

“Look, fucker! I’ve got this deal going in Seville. During 1992 Spain is going to be a happening place! The exposition is being touted as the last great world’s fair this century! . .

“Besides the World Fair in Seville, I don’t know if you are aware of it or not, but the Olympic Games are going to be held in Barcelona, and

Madrid is hosting the five-hundred-year anniversary celebrating Columbus’ discovering of America! In case you haven’t noticed, Europe is very hot right now.

“There’s going to be over a hundred countries and all the provinces of

Spain represented with fabulous pavilions, along with Xerox, IBM, and other conglomerates. They too are going to erect fabulous pavilions. It’s going to be massive and right now I have my dibs in on twenty-five joints. I’m telling ya, Lucky, we’re going to gross over fifty million in six-months, plus we’re going to have a shit load of fun.

“I was in Spain just three weeks ago and things look great! I’m telling, ya, forget the clichés, but it’s going to be more-like shooting fish in a barrel; it’s going to be a piece of cake, it’s going to be easier than picking up dumb broads on an airplane and then getting your pipes cleaned within a half hour!”

Lucky responded. “Sounds good but that’s over two years from now, where do I come in?”

“Here’s the deal! . . .

“At every fair I take thirty-five percent of the action for myself. I sell off the rest for a hundred-K a point. I’ve sold sixty points already. I’ve got five points left. You couldn’t buy more shares if ya begged. I could sell off the last five points in five minutes, but I figure, I could use a bull like you . . . You’re a bull, ya son-of-a-bitch, you know that? Look schmuck! . . You have the know-how, savvy and experience, plus you’re used to dealing with big figures.

“Oh, by the way, do you speak Spanish?”

“No.”

Lucky thought to himself about Harry calling him a bull ‘Great! Being a fuckin’ bull in Spain, for Harry Gross.’

Sure, sure, he further thought, that’s just what I’ve always wanted to be . . .

“Isn’t it in Spain where the bull gets aced?” Lucky said to Harry

“Bull, gets aced? What the fuck ya talking about?”

“You said you could use a bull in Spain? It’s not a very good place to be a bull.”

“It’s just a figment of speech, asshole! You know what the fuck I mean; bull-schmull, ya can be any-kind of fucking animal ya want. . . Mellow out, Lucky, you seem uptight or something . . . I didn’t hear ya, do ya speak, Spanish?”

“No!”

“Neither do, I. It’s not important anyway. Just about everybody speaks English over-there . . . So, do you think you’d like to be in?”

Lucky knew damn right well that he couldn’t muster up five-hundred-thousand dollars. He said he’d discuss the matter with Debra and call Harry the next week.

“I’ll have my man in Honolulu send you all the documentation in order to get your work visa. Even though it’s two years away you’ll still need one. You should start the process now. The fucking Spaniards take forever. Bureaucratically, the country’s a nightmare.”

Lucky separated himself from Harry, using the next room of the penthouse. By then it was 4:30am. His call to Debra was greeted by a busy signal. He attempted to call Debra for the next three hours. In between the attempts he and Harry revived the bombshells to have it their way with the still willing for lust youngsters.

The phone at Lucky’s was still busy by 10am. He figured Debra was sore, taken the phone off the hook and disconnected the cellular.

Unbeknown to Lucky, Debra and the four children were already on their way to the airport, heading back to Ohio.

By sunset Sunday evening, when Lucky finally returned home all that was there was a terse note left behind by Debra.

“Don’t bother to call, don’t bother to write! . . . If you want to see your kids get a lawyer . . .

“PS.   One of your good buddies from the Grand Hyatt called and gave me the run down, about you and that shyster, Harry. . . Hope it was worth it! I hope you, Harry, and the girls had a grand time!

 

FUCK YOU, LUCKY!

 

By Tuesday Harry phoned from San Francisco, curious to find out how the deal set with Debra. Lucky informed Harry about he and Debra’s falling out.

Harry in a non-consolatory manner and not bothering taking into account just how blue Lucky really was.

“Look, schmuck! Everything happens for the best! So you’ll get another broad. There are millions of them, just like the two we jazzed the other night. The important thing is you make yourself happy! . . . If you were so thrilled with Debra, you wouldn’t have been hanging out with me. Wait until you see the broads in Spain! I’m telling ya . . .”

In Lucky’s mind Harry couldn’t have been more wrong. The two sluts they tossed around the other night weren’t anywhere near the type of woman of whom Lucky desired to share the rest of his life. Lucky was shattered.

Lucky could have punched Harry right in the mouth. What the hell was the matter with him? Harry developed a decent casual friendship with Debra and what about the kids?

Harry ended their telephone conversation by telling Lucky the partnership papers, plus the work-visa applications, were already in the mail. He terminated the one-sided conversation with, “I’ll see you in sunny Seville.”

Within six months Debra and Lucky were divorced. Lucky, forced by a hefty settlement, was pressured to sell off his home. He wasn’t busted out just then. He still maintained yet a fast-shrinking wherewithal in the form of accessible cash at least enough to move into a luxurious, ocean front apartment.

 

 

     CHAPTER 3

 

While Harry and Luke spoke on the phone, 8,000 miles from Hawaii, one Louis Virgo limped through Paris’s cavernous Gare St Larare train station. A tight and encumbering leg brace beneath his left pant leg restricted his movement thus enabling him to maintain a constant limp. He pretended being crippled.

Before sitting down on one side and in the middle of the double-sided wooden bench, his eyes panned the grand station. After letting himself down ever-so gingerly and whilst still aping, he retrieved from his suit-coat pocket a paperback novel titled, Thinner, penned by a writer named Richard Bachman.

He sat alone, in disguise, reading the novel printed in French. Pasted above his weak upper lip was a false, blondish-red mustache. His normally straight-black hair: permed and dyed in Little Orphan Annie red. He sat reading away for more than three hours. He didn’t create attention and never flashed signs of annoyance about the apparent lateness of his called-for reunion. Inside the human time bomb that he was, his blood boiled while coming to grips that precious time was being lost.

Forty-nine years before, Louis Virgo was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the sole decedent of wealth. His powerful Haitian family was instrumental in Haitian affairs, going back to the island-nation’s very inception. Up to the then recent times, the Virgos wielded enormous influence, working clandestinely from behind the scenes.

Louis, a prodigy, diagnosed as brilliant, at the tender-age of three, whizzed through his home studies. Remarkably, within the confines of one of his family’s many villas, he achieved his high school, college and a medical-doctor’s degree by the age of seventeen.

He evolved from a line of physicians that went back centuries. The standing tradition, for the first-born male member belonging to the illustrious, Virgo family was to study and practice medicine. Doctoring remained their family’s primary upfront profession.

His academic achievements surpassed a long lineage of Virgos. After receiving his degrees, an opportunity arose to become a Rhodes scholar for two years as to study philosophy and political science at Oxford University in England.

*          *          *

While a Rhodes scholar he made an acquaintance: one Miguel Alberto Garcia. Miguel Garcia, an intellect, a Basque born but partially brought up in the heights of Spain’s Pyrenees.

It was Miguel Garcia, his one-time Rhodes acquaintance, who Louis Virgo waited on while in Paris. They planned to merge forces twenty-two years after they first met.

At thirteen, Miguel’s family was forced to depart their homeland, to settle across the border in southwestern France. In all actuality Miguel Garcia’s family was run out of Spain, primarily because of political pressures.

His family involved themselves in a struggle. The Spanish Government in Madrid gathered enough evidence from informers, and used that information as nail-them-to-the-wall evidence, enough to make serious accusations along with enough to indict! So rather than incite more bitterness and atrocities within their own borders, a deal was struck. It was decided the Garcias were to be exiled.

Louis Virgo was willing to sneak into Paris, risk his freedom for that important rendezvous with Miguel Garcia, his fellow Rhodes scholar of yesteryear.

Miguel and Louis possessed an agenda in the form of a joint mission.

With Louis planted on a train station’s bench up in Paris, Miguel was far to the south on a slow-moving train bound for the Parisian station. Miguel, frail and pale, small-framed with small dirty hands, nervously checked his watch. He sat aboard, helpless and perplexed, realizing Virgo was waiting and realizing Virgo, the perfectionist, would be irritated.

Growing up he was inundated with heavy-doses of Basque patriotism. The people of his village witnessed the cruel policies wielded from dictatorial Madrid.

He absorbed the stories how in a span of fifteen hundred years the struggle for full-Basque autonomy often turned violent. As an impressionable young man, Miguel listened intently and became stirred when told how the Basques defended their homelands against intruders and how the highlands suffered from incidents of repression going centuries.

They warred with the Visgoths, the Castillions, and the Astorians on and off for ages. All for what?

Never securing freedom tore at their souls. Barely alive within their thinning ranks was a violent rebellious platform, a dwindling flame fanned to life by a few loyal patriots. History has noted that lady luck has rarely been with them.

Centuries before, when they chose the road less traveled, they suspended their quest for freedom by changing stripes and alliances for a time while fighting side-by-side, with-and-for, their bitter-southern enemies, thinking they were fighting against a collective and greater evil. Valiantly, they helped rid Spain’s of the invading Moors. Afterwards Iberia was restored—yet they were denied.

Back in the thirties it was Generalissimo Franco who promised to forget their differences and counted on them to help purge the Communist, the Liberals, and the Moderates. With their help Franco won the great civil war.

Then again, afterwards, Madrid hedged on its promise and then turned its back when it came time to pay its debt.

Miguel Alberto Garcia, indoctrinated by his elders, grew up loathing Spain and emphatically vowed that when opportunity arose he would take no quarter. Drilled into him was to detest all of Spain’s kings and dictators, and everything that they stood for.

*          *          *

Louis Virgo remained seated. Both men hadn’t seen each other for fifteen years, yet they kept in contact.

During 1958, at Oxford, something clicked between the wealthy Haitian and the Basque refugee. They compared their family’s plights despite their contrasting backgrounds.

Together, after two years of fantasizing, philosophizing, contemplating and comparing, both young men involved themselves with each other by taking promises . . . If possible, together, as a team, one day they would disgrace Spain.

They were bright and realistic enough to realize for the-then time being, they needed to go their separate ways and formulate their own lives while establishing a foundation for such a day. Both of them insisted that the pursuit of ambition or love would never deter them from their mission.

Yes! They were lovers.

Virgo, still waiting, read on and delved further and further into Bachman’s Thinner.

Now and then he’d take a break and dig inside his trousers for a nail clipper to trim his nails.

The mystery novel was a prop. But at the same time Virgo was an avid Stephen King fan. Richard Bachman was a pen name used by the famous-mystery writer. Virgo, maintained a ferocious appetite for fiction, immersed himself in the works of terror. Secretly, he admired King’s casual approach, and how effortless he spoke of conniving characters who could easily deal out suffering and death.

His senses applauded the way King portrayed life’s finality, especially by the use of violence, and he admired how he brilliantly and ruthlessly he did so, and consistently did so in such a lighthearted manner. King’s writings were so nasty, so vivid, and so non-forgiving, and Virgo found it fascinating that King’s fictional logic snugly fit and paralleled to his real-life persona.

Virgo gave King too much credit perhaps; discounting King’s agenda produced his stories strictly for entertainment, and after all, those stories staged were merely fiction.

(Virgo own past killing escapades will be chronicled in detail later, and from them you will find out how the man was capable of inflicting huge-heaps of misery, pain and death upon his victims.)

On the other hand, King’s bodies of work and real-life motivations are obvious since his literary success brought fame and money and social acceptance by the masses. Virgo’s possessed other aspirations.

Virgo’s motives were scarier. The horror-scenes inside King stories, stirred the man so, they instigated blood-swollen hard-ons. Virgo absorbed much of every piece of literature King ever published with a rock solid cock.

As stated,Thinner was the predetermined signal, set up in advance between Miguel and Virgo. Thinner, printed in French was the all clear, a signal for Garcia to come on in for a safe landing.

Thinner, printed in English, was a sign to stay away.

Virgo read-on with interest, the story about a small-town lawyer who accidentally ran over and killed an old-Gypsy woman with his auto. In the novel, after being legally vindicated by the local courts, the small-town lawyer has to deal with the trials and tribulations that accompanies a mysterious, Gypsy-curse, one that’s spat upon him by an old, grieving, Gypsy widower.

*          *          *

Louis Virgo’s family clung to powerful Floridian ties where the Virgos maintained a residence. At one time they wielded heavy-handed, political influence in Washington.

A strange bedfellow relationship flourished between the iron-fisted family and the American nation ever since 1898.

A particular incident forged the relationship when the United States Government occupied Haiti in 1915.

After Louis Virgo completed his stint at Oxford, heads’ of the family suggested to the young Doctor Louis Virgo that he attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. His adopted home-state’s Senator arranged for the young man to enroll at the Point.

Sebastian, his father, also attended the institution. In the eyes of the elders, hopefully he’d follow his father’s footsteps, rise higher in rank than the then-retired and then-missing, and then-on-the-lam, Brigadier General Sebastian Virgo.

At West Point, Louis Virgo breezed by. He finished third in his class, achieving an additional degree in Engineering, plus a commission as Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.

Louis didn’t take well to the stringency of military life. Being raised a pampered, spoiled brilliant elitist; he fathomed his own sense of justice. His no-nonsense, lone, highbrow temperament added to his non-conformity. His success was primarily made up of academic might by achieving lofty grades. The military establishment looked the other way. His academic accomplishments smoothed out some his more obvious shortcomings.

When it came to obeying orders, and the advent of achieving a fundamental moral character, he cringed, only by tolerating the discipline but he didn’t adhere to it.

During those days the Army was hard up for whizzes and permitted some loose-cannon types to squeeze on through its gates and skate pass their honor system.

Soon after graduation he was promoted to captain, not needing to serve the required time-in-rank as a second or first lieutenant.

The Army just couldn’t draft chumps off the block and drill them into doctors after eight weeks of basic training. The Army created a standard practice to automatically promote any officer with a medical degree. The acceleration in rank validated the importance the Army placed on MDs.

Two, thin-gold, lieutenant’s bars, plus measly pay and lowly status were considered by medical professionals as steps backwards. The least the government could do was to bestow upon them the more-respected rank of captain.

In 1967, while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, Doctor Louis Virgo was attached to a branch of Military Intelligence. He was contacted by another American officer and indoctrinated into a secret society coined as: The Black Wing.

All was arranged. He possessed made credentials. His family’s clout elevated him to the inner circles of power within the sinister group. His father, Sebastian, was the secret organization’s co-founder.

The Black Wing’s ranks were loaded with professional cut-throats, extortionists and blood-thirsty lions disguised as patriots beneath sheep’s clothing while wearing their country’s uniform. They were not aligned with the caliber of men whose emotions broke out in goose bumps when visiting memorials like the U.S. Marines tribute praising the spirit of men who raised the colors over Iowa Jima. There were no patriotic “lumps in their throats,” during the playing of taps. They’d get no inspiration from the Spirit of 1776, nor were they taken by the sentiments of the Gettysburg Address.

Documented acts of righteous patriotism never tempered the Virgos. Their take: The gumption required to stem the tide at places like the Alamo, Vicksburg or Bastogne, were thought as self-praising chapters spilling out of American history books; where suckers fought, bled and died, but didn’t become rich. Their code was to beat the system and line their own pockets.

The secret clan, with origins that weren’t entirely underhanded, jumped the tracks somewhere along the line that became an honorable concept gone bad.

Their sole interest was money and power. The Black Wing remained a code name since a renegade troop of U.S. Army officers banded together back in Haiti in 1922.

Originally they were a vigilante group, formed by Virgo’s father and another Hispanic officer, so to protect the rights of lower-ranking officers. Their initial platform defended minority officers against trumped up charges, injustices and discrimination perpetrated against them. The original group consisted mostly of peoples whose families; religions or nationalities were excluded from the perks offered to the white-bread privileged. Over a couple of decades, they positioned themselves and while armed with ruthless street smarts they began to soar to the front, giving them a winning edge in certain situations.

Once convinced they could bend the system, by WWII most aspects of the group’s benevolent ideas were dormant if not extinct. With calculating caution they infested the U.S. Army worldwide.

That big-war expanded their ranks with more unscrupulous officers. Many achieved high rank and prestige, enabling them to expand their aspirations. By the Vietnam era they were entrenched. The U.S. armed forces at the time were no match for either the North Vietnamese or the likes of the well informed and heavily financed Black Wing.

When Vietnam escalated in 1967 the U.S. Army was mired in confusion and grossly mismanaged being reduced to an inept, flat-footed, fat-bellied armed forces. The Black Wing was trim, fine-tuned and well insulated.

Back then, ‘being all you can be,’ in actuality translated to take a fall. Branches of the Black Wing were weigh-laying supplies, railroad-traffic, flights and convoys while steering them to out-of-the-way destinations. Their operation consisted of no boundaries. It flourished on an international scale.

When Captain Louis Virgo received his orders for Vietnam during March of 1967; orders assigning him as an assistant to Chief of Staff in a Military Intelligence unit, he couldn’t of been more pleased. Unlike most dogfaces of the day he needn’t fear the possibility he’d ever have to eke out an existence in foxholes.

He wouldn’t find himself at the mercy of some gung-ho field commander either. Because of privilege he was assured and guaranteed certain ambiences, like clean-living conditions while insulated inside the air-conditioned comfy world contoured for a base-camp commando.

If it did come to doing some fighting he wouldn’t have minded. The then 26-year-old captain would have relished an added opportunity running the cruel end of a bayonet up some Oriental’s innards. He was well equipped both mentally and physically. Virgo, far from being a shiny-faced cadet was not a man to be toyed with. Louis possessed a built-in mean-streak.

*          *          *

One such instance of his ruthlessness surfaced while attending a dinner with fellow Army officers. On the eve of his departure for Vietnam, Virgo went along to the swank restaurant at the invitation and persistent insistence of four-other officers. Together they attended a two-week course at the Army’s foreign-language school near San Francisco, at Presidio. Language lessons were standard-operating procedure to familiarize officers shipping out to Nam with basic Vietnamese. During the dinner the officers became drunk except for Virgo.

The insignia on Virgo’s lapel indicated he was attached to that old oxymoron: Military Intelligence, with the insignia never alluding to his medical background. Naturally, the mysterious Virgo did not reveal his training.

During the dinner, one drunken officer rubbed Virgo the wrong way. The precocious OCS., (Officer Candidate School), an infantry captain, wore shoulder patches coloring him in as being air-borne qualified and ranger trained. The captain razzed Virgo about West Point in a not-so-nice way. While drinking Scotch, the man poked fun at the corps of cadets, referring to them as a bunch of silver-spooned, pabulum-fed, tin soldiers.

“Why you can have the whole fucking lot . . . that pompous-ass, Macarthur, the big-mouth Patton and that boy-scout Westmoreland . . . the whole-fuckin’ lot are no more than a bunch of candy-assed faggots!

“And by the time they’re through with, you, (referring to Virgo,) you’ll turn out just like the-fuckin’-rest!”

Insulting Virgo marked the captain. The captain had no idea about Virgo’s connections. It didn’t matter. Virgo and the man exchanged some testy words.

After a few uneasy moments Virgo’s provocateur decided to back off, then making an affable attempt to let bygones be bygones. Taking a different course he proposed a let’s-patch-things-up toast. Virgo didn’t overtly sign onto the man’s extended olive branch, nor did he rebuke him. Instead he remained quiet and studied the man with his own matter-of-fat body language not yet bothering to make his move.

The drunken captain stood up and pushed back his chair with his beforehand hostility toned down. He shifted gears and demeanor. He admitted himself as “a god-damned, big mouth.” He apologized for not holding up to his gentleman ship. He told the men he loved them, and began to make good on his toast.

Just before he raised his glass, he eyeballed, then snatched and began to devour a left-over -piece of porterhouse steak. It would never be known if he noticed the huge hunk of fat dangling off the end.

After tossing it into his mouth he began to choke, doing so before having the opportunity to utter the words bon-voyage or bottoms up.

Grizzled meat, mixed with fat, lodged inside his throat. At first his compatriots laughed, thinking it was a prank. When he dropped his glass to the floor . . . placed both his hands around his throat, and began making awful-sounding noises — heaves and hee-haws as farm-animals do . . . and only after he nose-dived head-first onto the table . . . it was only then that the choking man’s dinner companions realized the man was in trouble!

Two of his fellow officers rushed to his aid, attempting to hold open his jaws, trying to remove the garbage clogged his windpipe. They attempted the life-saving Heimlich maneuver. They bear hugged him and pounded on his back. The heaving man turned blue. His farewell concluded with a ghastly death rattle in the presence of his buddies and a startled dinner crowd, who by then were all aghast, pushing back their chairs and turning their heads!

Louis Virgo sat still, prim and proper. He wasn’t about-to lend a helping-hand, despite being confidant he’d be able to save the dying man . . . but only if he chose to.

Simple for him it would have been to perform a live-saving tracheotomy.

Virgo, a very meticulous man, made it a habit to carry a small, silver, nail-clipper. His hand sunk itself deep into his pocket away from the view of others busy trying to rescue their fellow officers. He flicked open the clipper’s serrated blade with his thumb and index finger.

He summed: By making a small incision close to the windpipe, he could by-pass the clogged area enabling the man to breathe. Once the man’s life was no longer in immediate danger he’d be able to dislodge the gristle from the esophagus. Virgo envisioned himself performing the procedure, but with no intentions to act. He didn’t care for the man.

Louis Virgo hardly budged. He found the confusion amusing. He had to catch himself from further relaxing, from crossing his one leg over to the other. He remained both fixated and fascinated witnessing life being choked away. His evil hand was buried inside his pants pocket with his index finger probing up and down the blade estimating the blade’s sharpness.

Virgo’s excitement almost betrayed him with beads of perspiration breaking out on his forehead that may have sold-out his indifference.

“Is there a doctor in the house? Is there a doctor in the house?” The three other officers shouted out still attempting to revive the man by employing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. They did so desperately. It was too late. He was a goner.

More sordid, only inches away, out of casual view and smack in the middle of Virgo’s lap; beneath his well-pressed officer’s trousers, an evil-man’s rock-solid penis was blood-swollen with vile excitement!

The prick Virgo’s erection was being brought on by the idea of death. Moments such as those were Heaven on Earth for the “perve.” The perspiration was the only visible clue that he was a loathing bastard, a devious inhuman who then boasted a hard-on pushing up against the zipper of his fly. His rotten-to-the-core insides were ecstatic.

A half-hour later the ambulance arrived and removed the captain’s body. In case there was an outside chance, the four officers accompanied their comrade’s corpse to the hospital. After the man was officially declared dead there was no use hanging around. The body would be turned over to the military; there was nothing more that they could do. Scheduled for early flight, the three despondent officers and Virgo jumped into a cab heading for the Presidio’s officers quarters.

One of the men noted that they had yet to leave the country and there already had been a casualty.

Louis, in a very nonchalant manner, said he didn’t think Captain Cummings (the dead officer’s name) had a piss-poor chance of making it in Vietnam as infantry officer. Virgo indicated Cumming’s had death written all over his face, and since he was so obnoxious he’d probably get fragged by one of his own men.

Captain Petre, the dead man’s best friend, didn’t care much for Virgo’s tone. That led to more words. A fight ensued in the back of the cab. Virgo, with a quick snap, broke Captain Petre’s arm with a simple move before the other officers could break it up. Captain Petre was in obvious pain.

The injury called for an immediate return to the hospital. Before the cab finished making a U-turn, Virgo commanded the driver to pull over.

He hopped out of the cab. Virgo reached into his pants pocket and tossed a ten-dollar bill towards the astonished officers. With a thin smile he wished the men “ado” and congratulated Captain Petre on his stay of orders, since it didn’t look as if he’d be taking off for “Nam” the next day.

“Someday, you’ll thank me, for getting you, out of the mess, you were about to get, yourself into, you piece of shit! Oh! . . . One thing for the rest of you, turds . . . Don’t any of you ever think about fucking with me or I’ll kill all three of you shits!”

His face went aglow and his eyes got real glassy, and then he placed a far-off look on his shiftless face while he sing-songed, “E-n-j-o-y the warrr boyyys.”

The next morning the two remaining grieving and exhausted officers and Virgo, along with two hundred and fifty-six other GI’s, boarded the military charter DC-10, operated by World Airways.

 

 

CHAPTER 4

 

The horse-drawn carriage transporting Jose Luis Rocio trotted closer towards Seville with the sun’s morning rays casting long shadows. The sprawling-Spanish countryside served as a backdrop made for a post card’s image.

The immediate landscape was made up of groves consisting of row-after-row of Andalusia’s olive trees planted in precise order. They spanned as far as the eye could see in every direction. Andalusia’s rich soil serves as Spain’s primary vegetable garden as it has since the Romans.

Two hours lapsed since they embarked from El Rocio. By the light of day Doctor Rocio reviewed hand-written notes and charts. Jose Luis was satisfied they had a good jump on the soon to be blistering mid-July sun.

That oncoming night he’d soon be in the company of his good friend and colleague Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci, an Italian gentleman and pickle-merchant, stemmed from Florence, Italy but in those days he resided in Seville. Rocio’s visit with Vespucci wasn’t to talk pickle talk.

Together they would study cartography while comparing each other’s notes and charts. He’d be spending an unspecified amount of time in Seville and residing at Vespucci’s residence, Monastery San Clemente, near the Guadalquivir River.

During that time of year the Guadalquivir presented itself as a brown-water river, not that much in a hurry as it lumbered along to slowly empty out somewhere downstream into the Atlantic. Its banks bordered the west end of the Seville while it moseyed along just a few meters from the banks supporting Monastery San Clemente.

Queen Isabella’s summer palace sat on a small island in the middle of the river and just across from the Monastery’s banks.

Doctor Rocio would partake in some private audiences with her majesty while in Seville. Despite the oven-like heat, Isabella preferred the hot-box-of-a-city, while holed up in her summertime palace, Monastery Santa Maria de las Cuevas. And despite the heat Jose Luis savored those wonderful feasts he attended in the past.

Queen Isabella, who reigned over Aragon, recently married Ferdinand, King of Castille. The marriage was viewed by unionist as a marriage of necessity, a political coup joining two kingdoms as one. The idea of a united Spain had never been more real. Both Castille and Argon merged as recent allies and were on the threshold of victory over the last remnants of the Moors still holding out in Grenada. The royal union was viewed as treaty to insure harmony between powerful rivaling politicians and barons who needed to be appeased within both kingdoms. This alliance eventually would bring Catalan into the fold, along with the peoples of the Pyrenees, along with those far to the northwest in Astoria.

There wasn’t an iota of romance between Isabella and Ferdinand. They were no Ulysses and Penelope. Strongly rumored was that “his swooshness,” King Ferdinand, preferred the company of little boys over big girls.

Just as strong was the persistent rumor that Queen Isabella would rather have the company of men’s-men over ordinary men. When it came to affairs of the boudoir, her-own black book was studded with a cavalcade of conquistadors, athletes and other strongmen, including a few blacksmiths.

Queen Isabella and Dr. Jose Luis Rocio forged a special, long-term, platonic relationship. They struck up a friendship when one of the queen’s lady associates, who also dabbled amongst her own cast of studs, discreetly recommended that her majesty summon Dr. Rocio to her royal chambers to help clear up a royal case of the clap.

Isabella, far from being considered a demure waif, insisted on a quick fix. She yearned to get back onto the heat of things. Instead of kowtowing, the doctor, whilst brandishing the noblest of Spanish man’s manners and while showcasing and bowing with proper respect, scolded her majesty.

She became impressed with Rocio’s refreshing frankness. His honesty and advice showed itself as up front, but at the same time his candidness was sprinkled with subjective manners.

He implored the queen to take more precautions pertaining to matters of the flesh and he concocted a potent solution for her to apply after she partook in some royal humping. The queen, once cured, invited the doctor to dine with the royal court. She then summoned the doctor back to the palace for this or that, and even beckoned him venture to her palace in Valencia, to help relieve symptoms belonging other minor ailments that plagued her.

More importantly, it was his frank magnificent company she so began to enjoy. She offered him a sterling position as Royal Physician. With all due respect he declined and properly informed the queen he could not ignore important governmental duties of his own, back at El Rocio, and unless commanded, he’d prefer to reside in his El Rocio.

He suggested to the queen she might consider setting up a summer palace down in El Rocio rather than Seville. She considered, but declined. There were more-strapping men in Seville, ones with talents and bodies that could make her swoon in the summer’s heat. Nevertheless, she decided to keep the straight-talking doctor as a close confident.

It became evident from the beginning, she was not physically attracted toward Jose, but mentally they meshed. His listening ability and lightning-quick comprehension, especially those pertaining to petty problems of royalty established him firmly as an intricate part of Isabella’s court. She melted to an at ease while tickled by his irreverent sense of honor, prompting the queen to go so far as to frame for his senses and imagination, in graphic detail, the amorous attributes belonging to her latest trophies. Her thing so to speak: To madly fuck in the thick of the heat.

Four to 6:00 p.m. became her favorite time of day. She confessed, the sweltering heat, and the idea of her on the very bottom of passionate bundle of sweat was absolutely tantalizing. “Bring ‘em on!” she’d squeal toward her stable masters.

Outside her fucking chamber, at least a half-dozen put-together men were usually lined up; kept in line by her stern looking prep men who readied the chosen studs for the queen.

At Rocio’s insistence, all entries were scrubbed down and then examined by a staff of physicians. The good doctor educated her majesty about certain aspects of human sexuality. She became outrageously overt about such matters in the presence of the well-mannered physician and even filled him in on some of her secret fantasies. She wished to copulate with a horse! Saying once she fondled a camel’s genitalia and that the insides of her mouth hungered to have it placed inside. Sometimes she would touch herself in his presence while unveiling her sexual escapades.

He was perfect for her. A man whose intriguing mind was all she desired to fuck. From her he asked for no favors. He presented no whimsical schemes to enrich himself or his family. He displayed good judgment about touchy matters, those pertaining with the state, and he became counted on to voice what was on his mind.

Subjects of personal interest relevant his own agenda he declined to mention. He quickly caught the gist, how all the perks and privileges bestowed upon her subjects could just as quickly be erased by the often-changing and fickle mood of a sometimes, bitchy queen. Isabella detested being asked for patronage, even those dealing with trite matters. She was quick to banish those who she suspected on the verge of taking advantage of her generosity.

He conjured, as long as he towed the regal line his spot by the queen was secure. Being so close to absolute power offered prestige and Jose flourished within his earned indispensability. Rocio watched his step, didn’t take chances, therefore established strong footings while being influential with the queen.

Successful and popular within the court, he was capable at achieving sought-after boon for others. His trump card may have been, he asked for absolutely nothing for himself. His strong inclination — believing wholeheartedly, the first instance when he might ask for special patronage, or even a small pittance for himself, that more-than-likely he’d soon be cast out of the royal inner-circle. Therefore, he disciplined himself to play his own cards close to his chest.

*          *          *

Jose Luis finally arrived at monastery San Clemente in the early evening. Amerigo Vespucci greeted Jose Rocio at his monastery gates with smiles and affection.

Vespucci belonged to a small but influential group of Italians, mostly tight-knit Florentines, who made up a new-breed of merchants operating out of Spain. He was an affable friendly man who took great pleasure pampering his guests. Amerigo’s friendly face forecast wit and humor.

Sevillianos of high standings attested that shortly after being introduced to the smiling Amerigo that they’d soon be treated to much lightheartedness, enough to tickle the funny bones, even those begrudging bones belonging to the most serious of men.

Jose gathering himself from the long journey straightened his clothes and stretched out on the wooden benches within Vespucci’s courtyard. He admired the surroundings. Amerigo chatted, bringing Jose up-to-date on the local goings on.

There were saucy tales with news of the pope, some wayward clergy and of the swindling talents of Gypsies.

Under the drooping branches, heavy with mid-summer’s offerings consisting of lemons and orange, Amerigo entertained his visitor with those saucy stories about other acquaintances. They both quenched their thirsts with the fresh squeezed juices from the very trees they sat beneath. Despite the time, ‘eightish,’ the sun’s rays remained searing enough to warrant shade.

Once Jose’s immediate thirst was quenched, they sipped on something with a more of a bite. The drink was a tinto soured with lemon wedges. From the pantry, Andalusian olives leaving pools of golden oil to be soaked up with freshly baked, soft-crusted bread.

The peach-and-white, six-arched edifice holding up one side of the monastery attracted Jose’s attention. The edifice portrayed a well-kept property; its Roman architecture mixed with earth-tone colors blended with the early-evening light. The setting soothed his dusty self. The coming of night’s coolness began to creep out of the shadows.

A huge clay trough, matching the color of the columns fronting the edifice, fostered onto one of the walls. The trough’s deep-bottomed basin overflowed with cool-spring water sprouting from deep beneath the monastery. The water continuously cascaded. The cascade rolled in the form of a thick-band, translucent, as it poured over the trough’s masonry side. The overflow formed a stream, only to flow further into man-made crevices, conduits planned out to corral the liquid parade. Jose Luis’s eyes followed the flow further towards a soft turf dug deep and slanted downward employing gravity’s help to ebb the man made stream aalong, and then scoot into a ditch as to moisten the well-tended landscaping, and then even further, to irrigate good-sized healthy-looking crops.

In July, even after eight, the sun holds strong. They would eat again later, the way Spaniards still do today. The main meal would be served only after the sun released its grip on the roasted region.

While at dinner the two men of means were to be joined by a third party. The threesome, in the splendor of the monastery’s main-dinning chamber, drank more vino, and yummed over an appetizer made-up of red-ripe tomatoes and onions, generously sprinkled with whole garlic and olive oil. They filled themselves with leafy vegetables, fresh-caught rape and heaps of jamon. After dinner they capped their feast with Brother Ignatius’s aged brandy. The top-it-all-off cup of coffee was absent. That stimulant wouldn’t touch European’s lips for another hundred years.

By midnight they settled under a candle-lit chandelier. Rocio pulled from his satchel notes and charts. Amerigo Vespucci too presented his own. They compared their statistics.

Topographical charts, dealing with trigonometry and new information that came to light and they intensely scrutinized piled-high, rolled up scrolls, with their papered insides marked up with lines of grid.

Doctor Jose Luis Rocio could have been referred to as an amateur geographer. The same could have been said for Vespucci.

Rocio, the lord and doctor — Vespucci, the international pickle merchant — both independent of each other studied the tides, the skies and the horizons for some time, factored in extensive calculations about the sun, the relationship between the polar star, and various benchmark spots on Earth then known to men.

Doctor Rocio that past Spring spent whole days in a small boat taking scientific measurements off the coast of Matalascanos, on Spain’s Atlantic coast. The summer before he ventured off of Morocco, and by using accumulated knowledge delved out by the stars, sailed northeast, toward Portugal. He collected from valid sources, information transcribed by the Portuguese who in the recent past had ventured far South towards Sierra Leone, in Africa, data with additional information about the sun and stars, and their distant relationship to the equator During winter, he scanned great books from respected seats of learning.

Vespucci conducted similar experiments. As part of each man’s daily regiment, both recorded the sun’s rise and fall and when feasible they braved the perils at sea independently. They suspected, along with a growing minority, that ‘the edge-of-the-Earth theory’ no longer held merit. Without hesitation they sailed into zones of unknown, territories, past the horizon, confident they wouldn’t fall off into oblivion. Their first-hand experiences said that nothing really changed out there, other than the currents and the positions of the sun and the moon. All of those sea-faring trips reinforced their-own theories about the roundness of the globe.

In Vespucci’s library were in-depth studies from other astronomers, and the content belonging to a laundry list of documented sun studies chronicled in the known world.

There were others, respected men, who privately speculated the Earth was round. It was considered taboo in certain circles to speak of such speculation. Scholars of the day summed the merits of a round earth as pure foolishness, an unreasonable speculation.

In Europe, if it were to become a common-belief that the Earth was actually round, drastic changes in economics would suddenly take place, including the balance of wealth.

Elders not solidly entrenched in positions of learning would be scoffed as fools for challenging the flat-world concept. If Vespucci’s and Rocio’s theories held true, those sticking to their antiquated muskets might be sternly ridiculed and even purged from academic grace, despite an ever growing speculation about the world’s roundness. They stifled those who attempting to prove different than the status quo. Strict punishment, banishment, maybe even death, would be in store for those who attempted to sell such wild talk.

It was rumored that maverick captains and wayward seamen actually returned from the other side of the world. Unwisely, when returning seamen spouted-out such indigestible information, about finding uncharted land across the blue, such revelations cost them their lives, usually by summary execution. To place a human perspective, since the beginning of time, and how it still remains today, people in power don’t always want to hear the truth.

If the world was round and the seas were connected, major economic havoc might topple some of the conglomerates of the then day. There were industries relying entirely on the revenues brought in by the preparation, transportation, and the warehousing of imports and exports which made their tortuous, time-wasting mundane way overland to-and-from the Orient.

Two hundred years lapsed since Marco Polo broke through the land and language barriers formed in the Far East. Polo established trade with the peoples of China and the sub-continent. Cartels in Europe, which dealt with the Orientals, were thriving. Families accumulated vast fortunes, because of those established trade routes. Anyone discovering an easier, cheaper-way toward the Orient, whilst opening the door for new entrepreneurs, eventually would deflate established businesses, making them obsolete, besides becoming wealthy and powerful themselves. Those in fixed positions greased a plethora of palms. Those monopolies with something to protect more vital than the notion that the Earth was round while there were serious people hell-bent on keeping things the way they were.

Doctor Rocio, along with his host Amerigo Vespucci, the year before, parlayed a joint investment. A third man, the other dinner guest was recommended to Amerigo Vespucci by another close party.

The dinner guest supposedly had access to a world trader, a man who claimed to have in his possession some particular scrolls from the Orient. The scrolls were said to be copies of original documents brought back by Marco Polo himself, and those scrolls were sequestered safely and tucked away inside the wall of a monastery in Genoa.

A hundred years earlier, Franciscan monks who had accompanied Polo to the East, and whose sect was by then headquartered at the said Venetian monastery, had conveniently translated the scrolls for the eyes of the West, from symbolic Mandarin into readable Latin. It was alluded to by reliable sources, but had yet to be proven, that the ancient scrolls contained detailed studies made by ancient-Chinese sun watchers. Those notes, along with precise calculations, supposedly measured the sun’s relationship with the Earth and the Moon while painstakingly documented for over five thousand years.

When Vespucci informed Rocio about the scrolls the year before, Rocio became enthused, and eager to compare the so-called Buddha papers with his own calculations, and asked if he could join-in on the purchase.

Vespucci revealed that he had a contact, an Italian like himself, a merchant marine, who could help them attain a rare copy. Vespucci scheduled arrangements to summon the fellow Italian to Seville. The Italian pickle-merchant based in Seville contracted the seaman. Afterwards the merchant marine and the pickle-merchant together headed for Genoa, and as a team finalized the purchase. The merchant marine who provided those scrolls, the third man present at Vespucci’s dinner with Jose Luis was non-other than Christopher Columbus!

The three men scrutinized the documents comparing Rocio’s calculations. For the most part they ignored, or at least shelved, what would eventually become almost as valuable –– the astrological aspects of the ancient writings.

Their interest focused solely on measurements that dealt with the solar path. By comparing certain keystone transients they were able to validate their own findings. Fueled by discovery, they stayed awake through the night and into the late-morning, sleeping briefly for short periods during the heat of the July afternoon. Soon enough they rose so to get-back for further keen examination. Columbus didn’t bother to get up after the first night’s all-nighter. He’d rather sleep. Besides he wasn’t all that interested in the scrolls contents.

Christopher Columbus’s interests and desires were to collect swift payment for his purveying efforts. Obviously, as history shows, Columbus was a man of the sea. By that time, due to his vast travels he tethered the winds and hitch-hiked rides upon trans-oceanic waves not yet named, and Columbus sailed uncharted currents on almost every sizable pond of sea-water in the-then Western world.

In all actuality Columbus brashly presented a demeanor as that of a high-seas hustler, a free-lancing seaman from Genoa Italy. He spent twenty-years sailing around the Mediterranean, picking-up whatever for whoever. He flashed a knack for showing-up at any port and within three or four days he’d negotiate for his own use or charter a sea-going vessel, and in addition have someone hire him a crew. His method: He’d orchestrate all of his enterprising with someone else’s venture capital. As for Columbus, rarely if ever pursued such risks on his own.

At first glance Columbus was an impressive package; a good-sized man with an imposing posture. When standing erect he was well over six-foot. He appeared even taller while wearing his flamboyant plumed hat. Columbus was thick legged with a barreled chest, and he possessed huge, sea-callused hands; hands that danced to his tune when he spoke. His magnificent presence was topped-off with a voice ocean-deep.

His pure girth could be ever so convincing or downright intimidating . . . depending on what end of his fixation one would dangle from. At an early age he educated himself to speak most of the languages stemming from the surrounding kingdoms. This acumen for linguistics showed faults with the verbose Columbus exacerbating, in a never-ending, lean-on-you manner, and when in need rivet the listener he switched to a flattery mode permanently fixed on one. Columbus was a scammer.

His business dealings with Vespucci while moving Vespucci’s pickles from here to there were on the up-and-up. Vespucci, unlike most of Columbus targets, shared and enjoyed a certain comradeship with the fellow Italian. Seville, in Columbus’ view made for a good-base while transporting Vespucci’s pickles which meant profit, plus Vespucci showed himself as generous and thoughtful—introducing Columbus to other men of Fifteenth Century enterprise. Seville offered a host of opportunities for a trickster such as Columbus. Besides, Seville was an ideal business center along with the batting-their-eyes and fanning themselves senoritas in the South of Spain were also much to his liking. Oh yes, Columbus was a ladies man.

After another full day while examining the Polo documents, Rocio and Vespucci became ecstatic. The papers substantiated every solar theory the two men earlier speculated.

Rocio’s hunch: Go south, and then venture towards the west so to unveil the East. The ocean-going route to the Orient at first should run in that exact sequence of directions to avoid the incoming strong Westerlies.’

The Westerlies, as they still do today, swirled up stiff breezes, known as trade winds. Sailors counted them so their frigates could be blown back towards Europe.

Once getting around the in-blowing trades, Rocio conceived that they’d catch onto the swift currents which skirted off Africa, and then they could be drawn further out toward the outer Azores, then harness the infant breezes being swept up by the Eastern-trades off the Canaries. And then, hopefully, they would be swept across the open sea.

If the written properties belonging to Chinese documents held water, and if the Easterlies were similar to the comparable winds off Asia, then those toddlers teeter-tottering off Africa would eventually mature and grow into full-blown trades, loaded with canvas-stretching winds with enough wind-age to blow them non-stop toward the Orient!

The validity of the documents provided a springboard for Rocio and Vespucci’s academic reasoning to seize an opportunity. The validation also meant that Columbus would get his due. For all parties it would be a small step, a mere dipping of the toe into the ocean blue, which would then catapult mankind into a continuing, non-stop, 500-year, exodus towards the new world.

Vespucci and Rocio contemplated how to utilize and expand on their proven knowledge. They planned the first sea expedition; estimated supplies needed, the seasons, the Atlantic-winds, known-currents, timetables, support systems and amount of crew. They also considered the financial costs. At least three ships would be needed, 90-hands, etc. etc.

Vespucci, well aware of Rocio’s close relationship with Queen Isabella suggested . . . “Could not my colleague and friend, Jose Luis Rocio, ever so diplomatically and strategically place into her highness’ royal-ear our noble quest?”

Vespucci’s small-featured funny face lit up with optimism as he pretended himself to be in the very queen’s presence.

Becoming dramatic and bowing in Rocio’s presence like a thespian, “Imagine the prestige gained for Spain, Your Majesty! Imagine how impressive it would be . . . and just imagine how the discovery would be envisioned and glorified by others throughout the known world, Your Majesty!”

Then he dropped the playacting, and went on to sell his good friend!

“Surely such a discovery would bolster such an infant and fragile alliance! . . . Surely the world would marvel at Spain’s newfound economic and military might, and then shutter at the thought of challenging Spain!

“Surely! . . . ” Vespucci continued to implore.

He brandished the faith and stilted the abilities he thought Rocio possessed as to pull-off such a request, with him having such a lock and usually the queen’s exclusive undivided attention and having it whenever he desired.

Rocio, with hands held high, attempted to calm his contemporary, dousing his friend’s burning illusions of grandeur. Rocio filled in Vespucci regarding certain perimeters. Perimeters he himself put into place surrounding his association with the queen. He cautioned such a windfall of esoteric information “Could be the kiss of death, and be the very end of my walk-the-tight-rope royal influence, along with my intimate relationship with Her Majesty.”

He was sure of it.

While in the presence of the court he witnessed too many instances such as the one being proposed by Vespucci.

Isabella often took a certain fancy to certain subjects while inviting them into the fold of the court. Somewhere along the line they might commit a slight faux pas; ask the wrong favor, or for that matter, ask of any favor, and just like that . . . they’d be banished.

Rocio explained to Vespucci; he didn’t trust Isabella. Her royal highness at times unveiled the scruples of petty thief. She never returned personal belongings to court members who forgetfully left them behind. She reveled and cackled about her booty haul in a ‘royal lost and never-to-be-found’ were stored. She possessed a collection of hand-held fans that would have eventually made Imelda Marcus sing out in jealously. Rocio held miniscule confidence in her when it came to the depths of her honesty. Even if he presented he and Vespuci’s ambitious plan while he and her majesty were both alone, Isabella might abscond it, and declare such as her very own, and then cast Rocio aside.

Rocio confessed to Vespucci: “My friend . . . Her Majesty relies on my response . . . solely pertaining matters of her own choosing. Isabella is not interested in what I might have to say . . . or what I aspire or what outside interests I might align myself with. She’s solely interested about what I have to say, after she says something related to her own relevance . . . and only have me respond towards items pertaining to her frivolities. She monopolizes conversations and censures the subject matter. Sadly, she’s no different than other monarchs, and she is completely self-centered, absorbed in her own trivial concerns.

“Think and say what you want, Amerigo. It’s a good-listener’s dilemma.”

Rocio further stated: “Now, if I had the swash-buckling, suave-fare, disingenuous, over-bearing-personality and good-looks . . . plus if I were filled to the brim and gushing with trumped-up confidence, such as your amigo, Columbus . . . well then, my friend, I might have a chance.

“Her Majesty, as you know, is an epicurean, a fancier of those sea-going types who flash unmitigated conceit; men who are able remain ever-so suave even while immersed and in over their heads in the sweaty-palmed presence of royalty. . .

“Why, . . . why, if I possessed such attributes . . . then perhaps I might be free to have my own way . . . and it might be more than just having the right-of-way inside the wax-filled canals leading to the inners of Her Majesty’s royal ears, and then, my friend, I might have my own corporal crotch groping ways with her ‘til the . . .”

Rocio suddenly slammed on the brakes! He ceased the sell-yourself-short lament, about not envisioning himself as noble enough in order to get the convincing job done.

He peered off . . . seemingly awestruck, as his soft eyes pierced the air beyond his friend.

Rocio stayed frozen, immersing himself into deep contemplation. As Vespucci gazed back toward Jose Luis Rocio’s face all that moved was the physician’s lips in a silent sync. He mumbled to himself. Indistinguishable, Amerigo couldn’t interpret the conjuring. Vespucci studied his friend.

Amerigo’s ears anxiously waited for the next possible word. He stayed silent, awaiting for his friend and partner to jump back on his conversational tracks.

“Amerigo! . . .Amerigo! . . . Are you conjuring what I am? . .

“See here, Amerigo! . . . Listen! . . . You’ll understand! As you well know!”

He paced the floor while staring downward. His right hand punctuated his forthcoming statements. His emotions brought his dialogue to a higher pitch and he spoke fast. “I’m totally confident that I have the Queen’s ear, and we both understand she respects my judgment categorically! Of course, as I’ve already spieled, my influence pertains strictly to matters that disconcert me!

“Now follow me. Try to imagine . . . If the feasibility arose, as a matter of coincidence, where upon Her Majesty and I might have a common interest, then I’d be privy and instrumental joining in on a debate that could nudge along the feasibility of that common interest! . . . Am I right? . .

“If the initiation of such curiosity and interest were to manifest directly from her side of the throne rather than my side of the red carpet, surely she would seek my council, if not only to confirm her interest, and of course to grossly satisfy her ever-ending lust to place me in the light as a supportive lackey! So far, when she has lent an ear toward any of my recommendations and taken them under-advisement, there hasn’t been one instance where she has ignored my selfless advice!

“Now listen to me, Amerigo! Try to envision this! . . . What if I were to introduce our associate. What if I provided for him, a royal audience, unwrapping before Her Majesty’s and her infinite fire down under; the charming, swash-buckling, full of himself, windbag of your man, Columbus and do so ever so delicately in the presence of our ‘always-in-estrus’ Isabella? . . And what if we fortify our brash seaman friend with our own illusions of grandeur? Why I can envision our aspirations cloaked beneath the veneer of Columbus’ savoir faire!   He could suggest to her, (ahem) . . . only after they’ve become acquainted perhaps . . . if-you-know-what-I-mean? . . He could suggest to Her Majesty’s ear precisely what we desire . . . only as Columbus can. . .

“Perhaps the initial inferences might languish but with deeper conviction they eventually could tickle her interest. Of course he’ll embellish those notions with talk of her immortalization . . . that goes without saying. Columbus pontificates pontificate. I can almost hear the banter, . . . vast, far-reaching contributions towards worldwide navigation, will certainly catapult Spain into a merchant-marine dynasty!

“He could expand on the idea of Isabella reigning with a lifetime legacy with the credit to both discover and parlay a more rapid, less-expensive route to the East, and such would sure to turn out as an iron-clad design to establish Isabella’s kingdom as the mightiest sea-power on Earth!”

Rocio stopped his pacing and lowered his voice, squinting his eyes while pasting a sophisticated smugness on his puss. Jose smiled into the inquisitive, spellbound eyes belonging to Amerigo.

“During intimate moments he’d be able to whisper into Her Majesty’s ear how such a find could forge her role, touching upon her grand importance within the new alliance between Castille and Argon.

“What do we care if Columbus professes it’s his quest? So-what if he proclaims he deciphered from the original Polo documents? We hold the mallet. Without us he’s lost. We’ll cut a deal with him.

“And, what if Columbus uses all his tenacity?

“Of course you realize by now what I’m boldly implying and it’s not him sailing with your pickles.

“We’ll prompt Senior Ambitious while he’s pickling Her Majesty’s, ‘royal majesty?’ . . .

“Surely my friend, while the pickling is fresh, and hopefully for Isabella and our sake, it’s sustainable, and perhaps while she spreads herself under his mass, she’ll have no choice but to consider the Columbus-style volleys while tempting such a proposal. And then . . .”

Vespucci continued to listen intently. The fertile-minded doctor’s words formed sentences and Vespucci’s visualized. His own quick senses kept up with Rocio’s fast-moving verbiage.

“And then it will be at that defining moment my friend, that my manipulative non-partisan influence can come into play . . . After all, has it been established, I’m their common denominator.

“I’m sealed with the royal stamp as her confidant, and to think, the very one whose brought two-sensitive hearts together. One who has strung Cupid’s bow aimed at being a matchmaker. Surely the Queen will insist I validate Columbus’s worth and then within the best position, the enviable position to be victorious . . .”

Amerigo appeared as being absolutely flabbergasted. His miniature face broke out into a king-size smile, appearing amazed a man such as Jose Luis, with his grace and charismatic charm, ‘and there, in front of his own alert senses, that all-and-all, the man was a trickster at heart!’

Amerigo’s small-chubby body bubbled over with enthusiasm and intrigue. His stubby arms extended outward off his torso, doing so with renewed vigor, reminding one of a playful seal, as he was about to respond.

“Brilliant! You’re brilliant, Sir, Doctor, Jose, Luis, Rocio!

“I would have never realized that the Good Doctor was so cunning! We must have a toast! We must celebrate your brilliance. You’re absolutely brilliant!”

The normally humble Jose Rocio beamed, absorbing his contemporary’s praise.

In the midst of their joint joy, Rocio oscillated from jubilant to melancholic, at the same time shelving the celebration and the subject at hand. First he addressed Vespucci’s lofty accolade with grateful thanks. Then his happy face turned to sour and he became somewhat serious.

“Thank you for your kindness my friend. Brilliant you say. Yes, perhaps in some respects. I only wish I could be perceived as brilliant when it comes to dealing with my son. His and my problems are another story.”

Vespucci, refused to take the bait and ignored the off-the-cuff comment of what seemed like an invitation to discuss distractions dealing with Jose’s sole offspring, Luis Jose.

In Vespucci’s view why then cope with a great opportunity. Family matters would have to wait.

Vespucci, discarded Rocio’s downtrodden revelation and asked with concern, “What about Columbus? . . . Seriously! . . . Do you think we can recruit him for such a feat?”

Both men silenced themselves as to sum up the feasibility of the scheme. After a a brief interlude, simultaneously Rocio and Vespucci came to the same conclusion!

Confidently summing up the likelihood of recruiting Columbus, they broke their contemplative features’ with corresponding grins. Little doubt remained. The twin grins led to subtle chuckles, then spread to mild tremors of laughter. Unable to out-wait the other, they burst into belly-busting laughter.

Their laughter persisted. It distorted their noble faces. Rocio attempted to repeat Vespucci’s rhetorical question, questioning Columbus’ willingness. The “he-hes” and “hah-hahs” bumped up to higher plateaus. They lost control with histrionics, the stuff of man-bites-dog, as hysterical howls erupted from both, then louder than the calls of jackals.

The two noblemen lost their senses. Models of self-composure, fell giddy without any sign of let-up. Their eyes teared, noses ran and drool escaped from the corners of their mouths. So debilitating, they could hardly stand, having them stagger like drunks with legs filled with a silly puddy and jocularity.

Glee echoed off the walls . . . and further permeated through the monastery. The unusual merriment bounced its way jovially around the dark corridors of San Clemente. Such corridors, if asked, couldn’t have recalled being privy to such.

A full-house compliment of straight-faced monks, pious brothers and sisters, became miffed by the behavior of their master and his dignified friend. Experimenting with Oriental drugs quickly became discounted . . . Showing no signs of letting up, a contagious outbreak spread throughout.

Comic bedlam broke-out as serious work in the monastery broke-down. Monks engrossed in devout prayer lost count of their beatitudes. Grounds-keepers pulled up from their backbreaking stoops. The clatter of pots and pans in the kitchen were drowned out. Subservient housekeepers bit their lower lips and the monks tried to sequester their own comic sensations.

One by one they fell prey to the laughin’ assassin. The pod of holier than thou, on their knees in front of the chapel’s altar, succumbed and found themselves rolling about on the mosaic-marble floor twisted with giddiness and hopelessly entwined in their own rosary beads. Rosary beads that boasted the crucifixes sad images depicting a Savior withering in agony but for the time were swinging with joy.

Faces were puffed—cheeks red. Some coughed until they choked. Others laughed so hard, they sneezed, tears ran freely.

The sleeping hulk of Columbus snored away up in his room. Columbus’ sense of humor then lay dormant as unconscious, not tickled a bit remaining out cold and impervious to the laughin’ assassin. His slumber never heard a peep. It’s hard to say if Columbus would have appreciated the joke, nevertheless he missed a chance to have a good time at his own expense.

After awhile the two men regained control over themselves. A dual consensus formed. In unison they affirmed how never before they witnessed a man who flashed such brazen ambition than the confident, deep-voiced, “egoed-out” Columbus. They expressed annoyance with Columbus’ never-ending salesmanship. He bored them with his one-sided, self-serving conversations; his barrage of over-the-top verbiage never retreated or held up as to give space for response or the mildest of acknowledgments.

So far, while at San Clemente, Christopher Columbus belly wagged endlessly about his capability to move huge shipments of pickles for Vespucci, from Egypt to Greece, Greece to Turkey, and to where ever.

His babbling irked the two scientists. During the previous night’s dinner, at one awkward moment, both decided to fall silent, mutually mute, rather than respond to Columbus’s officious rambling.

Shamelessly, failing to heed their subtle hint, he continued to blabber about his supposed contacts, and unrealistic abilities. The pompous ass never picked-up the affront and ignored the up take that the only subject at hand was that pertaining to be the Buddha papers.

Rather than to be rude, Vespucci felt compelled to invite Columbus along to dine. Up to the outbreak of bedlam, Vespucci kept his opinions about Columbus to himself. The man was an absolute bore.

Columbus was gauche enough to make-up grand scenarios — envisioning, how he could manipulate resources from highfalutin places.

Columbus was a rambling fool. Vespucci and Rocio were not in awe of a man who insulted their intelligence by suggesting follies. Their experiences with people forecast he could never pull-off what he proposed. His lame attempt to solicit Dr. Rocio as to finance a pipe-dream canal was laden full with ridiculous presumptions, indicating he could connect the doctor’s El Rocio with the nearby Atlantic. He expressed he was familiar with the territory, then to turn the beloved, tranquil pueblo into a bustling port.

“El Rocio could be Spain’s new gateway to Africa!” He proposed.

No question about his ambition, Columbus would jump at the opportunity to command such a voyage, one that could turn the course of history.

An added plum, the romantic conspiracy planned by Rocio and Vespucci, would be Columbus’ chance to partake-in what so many had partook-in before. A royal chance to “schtoop” the royal lady herself.

As a son stemming from the land of Romeo and Casanova, it would be his Latin duty to give the Queen of Spain a royal boffing.

He was a lout who felt destined, as if primarily born to melt the hearts of women such as Sheba, Cleopatra, Juliet, and if he were present in El Rocio in the 700s, he would have been brazen enough to go and seduce the precious little Julia.

Was Columbus a fool? Was Columbus actually brash enough to imagine that his pleasant-sounding name might one day come rolling off the tongues of men and women everywhere round the world? Could he have actually imagined that?

Only a pompous man such as Columbus could foresee such lofty notions. As a teen-age, Gentian, wharf hustler, he prescribed to the theory; “you can’t win if you don’t play.”

Vespucci and Rocio, after planting the seed, would contour the opportune nature of this ambitious man.

Rocio composed himself as to re-formulate a question. He asked Vespucci if he thought Columbus was endowed with the proper wherewithal suited for her majesty’s royal box?

Vespucci said, “Well, if he’s not, we’ll have to chop-off what he does have and replace it with one of my finer pickles!”

With their options determined both men threw themselves into another fit of laughter.

When the target of their scheme finally arose for a late-night dinner, with energy-packed enthusiasm and pretty-good salesmanship they engaged Columbus about his role. After making the proposal they sweetened the pie somewhat, regarding his due for purveying the documents of which Columbus brought from Italy.

They preferred not to pay off Columbus in full. Instead, his complete fee would come to him later. They agreed to double his take after they achieved the royal sponsorship, plus he’d receive a hefty cash bonus. They precisely explained, once their ambitious deal went down Columbus would be afforded a generous piece of the action and become a full partner and share in the profits. What fancied Columbus, more so was he’d be able to partake in the fame.

Columbus; gushing, salivating and totally gag-gah affirmed; “Yes! . . . Yes! . . . Yes! Yes! Yes!”

*          *          *

Vespucci and Rocio, along with the soon to be discover, spent the next month in a tortuous studious manner. The two men turned to frustration while tutoring the superficial Columbus.

Columbus, despite being a learned seaman, but as far as affairs of mathematics was concerned he came up short, the subject not being his strong suite. He did comprehend the night skies for navigation purposes, important stuff, but failed miserably once it came to proving calculations.

“Let the documents speak for themselves my friend,” pontificated Dr. Rocio.

“Every time one of Her Majesty’s home-spun scientists attempt to pierce a hole in our theory, insist the one pointing the finger disprove the equations rather than trying to explain them yourself.”

Rocio concluded, such strategy painted itself as a fool-proof solution to mask Columbus’s lack of mathematical reasoning.

“Besides, I’ll be on hand inside the court as back-up.” Rocio cleared his throat and then said in a discreet manner and in a low voice, “Except of course . . . when you’re taking care of other important matters with Her Majesty.”

Dr. Jose Luis Rocio invited Christopher Columbus to accompany him to Santa Maria Del Las Cuevas. Her majesty’s monastery was not far from San Clemente, and just over the Guadalquivir River. Soon enough Columbus was having rendezvous on his own with Isabella.

Rocio strictly advised Columbus not to bring up the subject at hand in the presence of the queen without him. He didn’t trust Isabella. The doctor was concerned, if her majesty heard the proposal first-hand and it was initially from Columbus’s mouth, she might pilfer their idea, and then discard the puffed-up Columbus like a left behind shawl.

Rocio’s hunch, for reasons of which he couldn’t explain, was sure she held onto some phony form of self-righteousness while in his presence. She actually reveled in it.

In the queen’s view the good-natured man, the guardian of the statue of the Virgin of El Rocio, linked her majesty to certain respectability. Rocio was gambling that she wouldn’t attempt to pull-off such a thieving stunt, especially in front of him. His logic didn’t fool or mask the obvious; during second thoughts he conjured that despite the royal airs and attentiveness, he was perceived merely as a soiled pawn, manipulated by her Majesty, and he was just stirred in with the rest, a mix, homogenized by the churning of a self-serving monarchy. Inside his heart he realized he was no more special than the rest.

The first opportunity unpredictably arose at a feast hosted by the queen. Both Rocio and Columbus attended the gala along with many members of her majesty’s royal navy. After a sumptuous feast, Sevillianos sang their high-spirited choruses and danced the flamenco. The royal court circled the entertainers and festively partook in a high-spirited, hand-clapping march.

Much titillating went on between Isabella and Columbus in full view of the admiralty and the rest of the court. A round-robin flamenco joined the two as dance partners. A brief yet steamy encounter centered both. Some embarrassing pawing ensued between the two lovebirds in front of Ferdinand.

Of course the swish, Ferdinand, with his own agenda remained oblivious to any goings-on. He retired, not so innocent himself, having a procession of cherub-faced, flower boys in tow.

Isabella with pleasure and poise carried on the duties of the host. The entire admiralty, with Columbus and Jose Luis and the rest of the court, followed her majesty and moved on to another palatial room outfitted with sofas and chairs.

Over brandy and conversation the subject of the sea came to air, a subject that placed the seasoned-sailor Columbus at ease. One admiral launched what would become a dicey move, and he blatantly asked the Gentian a probing question. The admiral was obviously familiar with the rumors about Columbus’s exploits. Testing Columbus’s for-realness may have been his motive for such scrutiny, a chance for the smug admiral, while in the presence of the queen, to expose a fake.

The admiral desired to turn a quiz into a dig, to perhaps exploit how Columbus was no more than a shameful opportunist, and a whore for the throne!

The question about seamanship presented itself as complicated and intricate, a query regarding the placement of freight’s weight, and how those supplies could vary a vessel’s stability. He compounded the question when he matched the storage verses certain unpredictable currents. A hypothetical questioning unfolded further dealing with weather conditions, along with radical winds and how they might relate to a maritime situation.

Columbus being on familiar turf, or we should say friendly seas, indicative of his style, handled the thought-provoking question with eloquent grace, and put the probing admiral in his surrogate place.

His well-placed words and first-hand knowledge about such aquatic matters opened the door for further sea-going conversation. Columbus shined, staying afloat, and soon had the pigeons of the admiralty eating out of his hand. Later, behind closed doors between the queen, Columbus, Rocio and some of the queen’s most influential political advisors, including, Santangel, her treasurer — Columbus made his move.

The queen was more than pleased how her Genoa seaman passed his test, and with that put to rest she became eager to further show-off her dashing Columbus. She mentioned how Columbus with his great feel for the sea and a zest for life, and that he could enhance her Spain more so than those know-it-all admirals. The politicians in her presence, all survivors themselves; men who just witnessed the ascorbic-tongue admiral sink himself. In no way were they going to scuttle any of Columbus’s attributes. They showered her majesty with praise, regarding her sense of character, and her sense of seamen.

Columbus shocked Rocio and even surprised himself by jump-starting their ambitious plan. Perhaps it was pre-mature but nevertheless he orchestrated his move in a cagey fashion. With all of his stage presence in tack he announced to the queen ‘what he could provide Spain,’ was worth a thousand times more than what a fleet’s worth of pot-bellied, admiral-led, naval victories could ever bring.

Rocio bided his time before turning Columbus loose. But Columbus’ sea-senses took advantage and without prompting acted out his “the world is round role,” and to his credit he did so with Oscar-winning conviction. The talk, whet the appetite of both Isabella and her political advisors. Her advisors predicted patronizingly that a man of Columbus’s experience flashed true grit, and the fact he wasn’t a Spaniard, could send a greater message and show off to the entire world that Spain and Isabella had a novae international agenda.

“For what assets you might spend for one week’s worth of entertainment inside the walls of this palace . . . for that price, ‘Enterprise to the Indies,’ (a monicker he coined on the spot,) could provide a life-time’s worth of prosperity for thousands, and that prosperity may go on for generations!” professed a hard-selling Christopher C.

Rocio didn’t say a word. The queen’s ears expanded and she desired to know more, and the political advisors were willingly able do fit into place all the merits that might be gained with such an accomplishment. Unanimously and in unison they unified behind the queen’s royal reasoning and they resounded. “Especially for the new alliance! . . .” one politician blurted while suddenly filled with his own righteousness.

Feeling braver with each utterance, and without challenge he showered the stateroom with palatial precipitation, “Queen Isabella’s sanctioning of such an expedition would permanently mark her within annals of history as the world’s ‘Queen of Discovery!’”

Before dawn all had been approved. Everything went well, perhaps not the way originally planned, but still, remarkably, they achieved the bottom line.

One hardly noticeable slight left a fly in the ointment.

The doctor asked for something.

 

 

CHAPTER 5

 

Louis Virgo eased up the steps of the airliner as if he was off for a Caribbean vacation. For the mostly young, dumb, poor assortment of inner city, hillbilly-hicks or naive-patriotic types, a hodgepodge, made-up of what was supposed to be America’s best, it was to become a bad trip.

They sky rocketed over the tranquil Pacific towards what was coined by G.I.’s as “a world of shit,” entering a voodoo-filled stinking-land of death and destruction.

A comparison for some of those grunts on that death express might be compared being kicked out of a speeding taxi at two o’clock in the morning, smack in the middle of the scariest-fucking neighborhood one could imagine.

There were spooks in the jungle over there, just waiting for scared, little shit asses such as them. They’d soon enough discover they were being forced into a distorted fight for non-freedom’s sake.

It was a strange war. In other wars, American GI’s boarded troop ships, or packed themselves inside slow military aircraft, having time to put their journey into perspective. The Nam- Theater was a far-away war zone no more than a few hours away.

It’s hard to prepare for a battle that’s only hours away, especially when in the midst of the sojourn one is asked by pretty stewardesses if they preferred coffee or tea.

In those days they were being whisked from the go-go whimsical, and goofy-dressed society that went gah-gah over the trite and frivolous. Nevertheless, LBJ, the country’s president coined it “The Great Society.”

Perhaps the dress of the times and the war, were feeble attempts for a society to grasp onto anything left over from the tattered remains of a desperate nation trying to recover from the site of seeing its own president’s brains being splattered out all over a Dallas boulevard a few years before.

The well-placed bullets didn’t just inflict death on a nation’s young, vivacious leader but shocked a society into serious soul searching. They searched in the wrong places.

Perhaps a not-so-great society was trying to forget. The nation was taking a long time to heal. Kennedy bled. Oswald and whoever hired him didn’t bleed enough.

America’s logic was twisted. The blind might of its political arm spun on an unstable axis. The society collectively thirsted for some sort of vengeance upon whomever.

Planted in Americans minds were outrageous accusations. Factions in government were wild with rage. We lost Cuba. In Berlin they built that wall. Frantic forces within the government commiserated. Surely the Communist killed Kennedy; and if they didn’t, they sure as hell welcomed the news. Kennedy made the Russians blink during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Eliminating him would be a feather in an enemy’s cap. America, in 1967, was still groggy, trying to pull itself up off the canvas, just after the body shot the nation absorbed in Dallas, stunning, staggering and leaving it with blurred vision.

Seemed the commies were getting away with it. So, a nation with its brains scrambled and the right-hand of justice tied tight behind its back unleashed an iron fist.

America invaded Haiti’s island-sharing neighbor the Dominican Republic in 1964, a small example of things to come and revealing a new way-of-thinking and a plan to bring them all back to the supposed fold with a lean-on the enemy push prompted by what was referred to as a rapid-deployment force. The U.S. was itching for a fight.

With cobwebs lingering, the nation forgot to heed caution and lunged forward, taking wild swings while trying to land a haymaker. They may have been swinging at shadows. The nation charged like a bull.

For the soldiers flying toward Southeast Asia their crystal ball forecasted eerie nights. Each night in the bush tested one’s psyche. The long-lasting nights eked out sinister sounds that gave the bravest of men a severe case of the “willies.” Many broke down.

For babes-in-the-woods, mostly teenagers, to be in such a fix, in such a place, and be privy to other men; “men’s-men,” who perhaps earlier bragged about their invisibility, it became a sobering realization and sad-sad lullaby for the kids Philadelphia, Providence and Pasadena to hear the cries for mama while seeing others curled-up in their foxholes and sensing their hopelessness.

Daytime wasn’t better. In the light of day they could witness first hand how the unmerciful enemy was capable of undoing their buddies bodies. Yeah! They wandered into the wrong, badass neighborhood, one that they weren’t welcomed.

Those Jasons and Craigs, those Stevens and Phillips, those Joses and Lukes were for the most part clean-cut neighborhood kids, but that “gee-whiz” innocence would no longer shine after a trip to “Nam.” The sights and sounds from war brutalized those Jasons and Craigs.

In order to survive in the havoc some survived by the rules of the jungle. Those once happy-faced youths who used to begin their cheerier days in mama’s kitchen, scanning the back of a cereal box featuring Tony the Tiger, came abruptly to the realization while in Nam weren’t greeted by any smiling Tigers. There was no lingering taste of sweet milk and sugar. Charlie replaced the likeness of Tony. Charles was far from the soft textured likes of amilk-logged flakes. Charles was lean and enduring. The sweet sound of mama’s humming in the kitchen couldn’t be imagined. Happy faces there weren’t. All the morning brought was a daily chance to kill or be killed.

When those Stevens and Phillips began to reach puberty back in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, those baby-boomers evilest thoughts may have been to fantasize what was budding under the white, cashmere, Musketeer sweaters worn by those young things on the Mickey Mouse Club. The once rosy-cheeked lads who were once topped off with soft-topped baseball caps soon enough wilted and turned into scruffy-faced, bearded, shells of men. The innocent “eey-ah-kees,” shouted out by TV’s Spin and Marty turned to “Oh, my, Gods!” and “Please, Lord!” while embroiled in the face of battle. Putrid scenes and hair-raising instances sentenced them to the memories for years to come.

A piece of government paper with the word “discharge” stamped on it wasn’t enough to get all the way out.

Unbeknown to those defending the so-called freedoms of a nation full of corruption, the home front was being mismanaged by Cadillac-driving, cigar-puffing nincompoops, who were still reveling in the faded glory of World War II.

Photo journalists captured a powerful pro-war congressman, drunkenly frolicking with hookers while splashing about in the Capital’s tidal pools on the grounds of a patriotic monument, while boys from his home district were soaking up pools of their own blood with no hookers in sight.

Leaders were pork-barreling the economy. Kids in the U.S. were spoon-fed the American way. During 1967 the troops found themselves stapled to vivid stark reality.

How could it happen? How could those who adhered to the scruples of Superman, and those who were reared and admired the common-sense of Father Knows Best, and those who the took comfort in the warmth of Ozzie and Harriet, how could they have possibly found themselves in such a tight spot? Were Spin and Marty in the same dilemma? What was Walter Cronkite saying?

There was no 911 to call or the ability to summon some tough, Irish cop, who would say with all his civil authority, “O.K., let’s break it up, gang! Go home. The party’s over.” Fat chance for our kids.

*          *          *

Captain Louis Virgo, the two surviving officers from the night before, and two-hundred-and-fifty-six other dudes with bad-timing, zoomed from the calm sane surroundings of Travis Air Force Base in Oakland, California, and headed to America’s giant air-base in Vietnam: Tan Sohn Nut, a chaotic reception center. The two officers from the night before sat in their airplane seats as far away as possible from Virgo.

*          *          *

Within two weeks after his arrival in Vietnam, Captain Louis Virgo was assigned to Three Corps, at Pleku, up in the highlands, close to the Cambodian and Laotian borders. Soon after being contacted by a fellow Black Winger, a full colonel who commanded a logistical brigade Virgo was filled in that his deal was set. Arrangements had been made. The bad-guy colonel commanded a renegade pack of cutthroats. Some were American-scum, others eager Vietnamese informers who up-dated the bad colonel on the whereabouts of the Viet Cong and NVA troops, and where they planned to conduct future operations.

Of course the bad-guy Colonel never passed on the valid information to his own superiors. After he procured such intelligence he’d send false information up the line about the whereabouts of the enemy.

Virgo settled in at Military Intelligence. He studied the maps and overlays, and scrutinized plans regarding the movement of U.S. forces on search-and-destroy missions. The Black Wing’s newly arrived made-man, willfully handed over top secrets to the bad-guy Colonel.

Shortly thereafter a detachment transporting a substantial amount of military hardware suddenly disappeared. War goods meant-for protecting American lives in the name of four million dollars worth of goodwill, earmarked to uphold a democracy, mysteriously vanished into thin air.

A band of notorious, skirting both-sides of the street, showed no qualms killing off any force blocking their way. They eradicated the convoy’s escorts. They’d disposed of the once good-guys bodies in a gruesome manner.

The Saigon command estimated over one hundred tons of war supplies were lost or missing up to that point of the war. Top brass at headquarters were strategically checkmated and second-guessed by the Bobby Fischers of the Pentagon. Those with dignified aims were further stalemated by a slew of trying-to-get-reelected, free-spending politicians, who considered such shrinkage, along with the casualties, as no more than “the price of doing business.” MIA made small impact in Washington during 1967.

There were smoke stacks to be kept bellowing within home districts. A North Carolina textile mill held a huge government contract, with its ink still wet, a deal that guaranteed a military industrialist the massive production of over 500,000 body bags.

Too much to count booty had been swiped by the wretched claws of the Black Wing. Cam Rahn Bay was stock piled to the hilt with a plethora of supplies. Just offshore, a bay full of ocean-going tankers sat still atop the water waiting for an allocated time so to drift ashore and unload.

No great concern or precautions were being taken by fat-cat generals. The stolen cache made its way to the hands of the highest bidder.

The hi-jacked goods rolled into Laos within a week. Some of the booty was offered to the Viet Cong to be re-used against the Americans. The more sophisticated stuff was enticingly dangled in front of Russian and Chinese, done so by agents who frequented the cafes and bistros of Bangkok and Hong Kong, which meant huge amounts of money for the shark-conscience Black Wing. The Russians and Chinese paid enormous sums if only to compare America’s state-of weaponry against their unsure-own.

The rest—gobbled-up by Laotian guerrillas or turned over to the Kmre Roughe in Cambodia.

If there was a sudden glut and all-of-a-sudden there were more goods than buyers, there was always the accommodating Burmese, who were eager to buy any weapons from any provider. The Black Wing thrived on conflict.

Captain Virgo was incriminating himself—not solely by becoming a despicable turncoat, but shortly thereafter he’d further implicate himself by becoming worse, a ruthless murderer.

Administratively speaking he was proficient, hardworking and a competent officer. He earned high marks on his officer’s-efficiency reports and was showered with kudos from all of his immediate superiors. They would have been flabbergasted by his mean-seeded nature. He was considered a brilliant subordinate with high-credentials, while boasting a medical degree along with his West Point training.

As they say in military jargon; Captain Louis Virgo was a real comer.

Someone decided Captain Louis Virgo should transfer out of III Corps, and soon he’d be gently placed under the command of one Major General Keith Ware.

*          *          *

Virgo seized the moment and saw his transfer as a fabulous opportunity, a serendipity event, where as he could soon establish a hot-goods route right into North Vietnam. If the Black Wing could hi-jack the goods and stream line the stuff directly into North Vietnam, there would be less of a chance and sufficient time to risk detection. Virgo ran his plan by his co-conspirators. They agreed, but first a deal needed to be struck with the North Vietnamese. In no time, trucks, weapons and other supplies were falling into the hands of the enemy.

*          *          *

Major General Keith Ware commanded the First Infantry Division in a real hot spot, up-country and close to the North Vietnamese border. Ware was the last of the Mustang Generals. Mustang General meant, that the-then, major-general was once a lowly enlisted man.

Captain Virgo would be assigned to Ware as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer, and act as a conduit between First Division and the III Corps.

Ware was drafted as a mere private shortly before World War II. He became a hero in the South of France during the big war.

He valiantly distinguished himself in combat.

During one incredible instance he rose to the occasion while his unit was being over-run by the Germans. Despite being wounded, Private Ware rallied his fellow G.Is. Ware calmed his comrades and directed fire. Then he led a counter attack. He single-handily destroyed two fortified-enemy bunkers, and further wiped out an additional number of Germans.

His sent the enemy scattering. Those efforts were documented by his commanders and sent up the line. He was awarded a battlefield commission, and promoted to the field-commander’s grade of lieutenant-colonel, a rapid elevation for someone who recently was a buck private, just 22-years old.

There was more to the boy. Young Colonel Ware later became an intricate part of the Normandy invasion. He’d go on to help liberate Paris and show up victoriously on the eastern shores of the Rhine with “Old Iron Sides” himself; General George S. Patton. At the crumbled gates of the Third Reich he’d first thank God, sip champagne, and then toast the American way. Later, after the war, he was righteously awarded the by the U.S. Congress The Medal of Honor, America’s most-prestigious military decoration.

He pursued an education while remaining in the Army. He excelled in academics, but when trouble broke out in Korea, his country called him back to command a front-line unit.

After Korea, the Army decided to make use of Keith Ware’s brain rather than his brawn. He held distinguished posts within the areas of administration and education. Taking on additional correspondent courses, he constantly brought himself up-to-date regarding the latest military strategies of the day. Unfolded before him, while serving at the Pentagon, he was entrusted and given an opportunity to scrutinize and study the most secret of U.S. military contingency plans.

Often Ware was offered a forum in front of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, to pontificate his own strategy, how he would put into effect those various techniques. He attended most of the significant of U. S. military, war colleges. After collecting a wall-full of diplomas, under grad at Columbia and masters at Georgetown, Colonel Ware represented the Army by becoming the United States Army’s liaison officer serving inside the U. S. Congress.

The relatively young colonel with a chest full of decorations schmoozed with the powers of government. He went on to streamline systems, and then he became Chief Editor in the official Army newspaper; The Army Times. Throughout his military career Keith Ware accepted a myriad of assignments, including being named Commandant of the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was there, where he encountered his initial run in with Virgo.

Seems the first-year plebe Virgo broke some regulations, rules having to do with billeting. Against policy, Virgo kept an off campus apartment. The appropriate punishment was in order; restricted to quarters, 80 hours of forced marching, absolutely no participation in inter-mural activity.

Out-of-no-where came an official memo calling for the immediate attention of the West Point’s Commandant. The memo came from up the line and astonishingly its content nullified any forthcoming punishment that was in store for the rule-breaking plebe.

Plebe Virgo was to be fully re-instated to all post privileges. After reading the edict Ware became extremely concerned that such a reprieve might set an unwarranted precedent. The-then brigadier general, using his own contacts couldn’t find the precise origin involving the reprieve. Somewhere deep from an office of a four-star command and from super secret spot from within the darker side the Pentagon was all he could unearth?

The good soldier in him regrettably complied with the dispensation.

That reprieve however didn’t insinuate, nor did it dictate that he should show special care or pamper Plebe Virgo. He locked Plebe Virgo’s heels and gave him a stern, no-nonsense, chewing out. He warned Virgo to never again step out of line. He wasn’t impressed or concerned with how many academic degrees he possessed, or just who his family elbowed with. There had better be no further incidents of any kind!

Shortly thereafter, Brigadier General Ware was transferred away from West Point. Logistical Commander for Central America; were what the orders read. By the end of Virgo’s plebe year at The Point, Ware was far away, stationed in the Panama Canal Zone.

Another attribute that the general possessed was that he held onto too much moxie to hold grudges. Quick to recognize that the Army was as huge and complicated as society in itself—colossal complication by which he long-ago determined to be his lifelong vocation.

Keith’s voice remained soft-spoken and its tone polite. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and he wasn’t much for all the saluting that usually went along with the polished men who wear stars.

For that reason alone he didn’t miss West Point. He was sophisticated. In no way did the friendly, pipe-smoking man with non-threatening, grandfatherly features happen to remind one of a warrior. His fatigues were not sharply tailored or heavily starched. His uniform was more-or-less soft looking . . . baggy. The general didn’t have to put up a stilted front so to be taken seriously. At all new duty stations he could shed the burden of a macho image. His reputation and accounts of past valor preceded his arrival anyway.

As for fitness, a quick-paced, early-morning walk and some isometrics kept him fit. Edna, his wife of 22 years, helped out too, by giving him a healthy work out about twice a week. He’d leave the handball playing and marathon running for the younger officers.

Beneath the gentle-look, and that easy-going image, hummed a very precise and a methodical tactician recognized by peers as a man with immense talents. He made permanent rank of Major General by the time he was 45, despite the West Point SNAFU he brandished a solid academic and spotless reputation.

His writings were convincing and finely detailed, backed up with precise facts and figures. His in-depth works dealing with tactical-nuclear warfare were often studied with great interest and his theories were taught at military learning centers on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

After the West Point fiasco and sudden transfer General Ware masked any sign of resentment. Wise enough, and not one to become discouraged, he handled the slight philosophically and instead of seething, being the renaissance man that he was, he took it in stride and proved able to fulfill another opportunity, and he involved himself in the world of military logistics.

For a fertile-minded man such as himself the Panama Canal became an interesting place. He and his wife both spoke the language and enjoyed the food and customs. They loved the water sports for the kids. Not one to be stifled by a career setback, General Ware remained flexible and versatile — the very sort of man that the Army needed.

He lost no visible face and remained every bit of a commander; one who could wage a savage tactical war against the Soviets or Red Chinese, or the type of commander with the conviction to squash civil disorder. He possessed the brilliance and presence of mind essential to prevail inside the Pentagon’s think tank.

If Ware took a different course, and had chosen a civilian life, he was diversified enough to be a CEO, sitting at the tip of some Fortune-500 conglomerate. He had the ability to compromise with wide-spread talents, broad enough to negotiate terms as a labor attorney, dissecting complicated contracts that may have been chockfull with legal mine fields of their own.

But it was Vietnam that had a hold on him back in 1967.

Ware controlled a flexible challenging command; his armor was immersed in mud, his infantry terrorized by mosquitoes, and his air wing limped along while being dangerously short on experience. He orchestrated a teetering balancing act in a damn hot spot.

He commanded the First Infantry Division.

He relished the idea and was in awe of having another opportunity. Front line commanders are the crown princes of war. With the prestige comes the awesome responsibility of a combat commander.

The 1st. Infantry Division called by most as the Big Red One had been in country for over a year. The Division recognized by its shoulder patch, a big-red, numeral one, worn by its members on the left shoulder’s upper sleeve. The proud division was considered as one of the American Army’s most prestigious.

The general, never one to sermon his men or fill them up with false ideas, would have no part instilling in them they were some sort of superior-fighting force with a God-given right to search and destroy. He insisted to all who served below him to show a leery respect for their counterparts. He spread the word, that the enemy weren’t buck-toothed gooks with slanted eyes, sloped heads, who had rice for brains, but they were more like them—well-trained, highly-motivated, disciplined and fuckin’-A, dangerous.

“We’re on their turf,” he’d remind his commanders. And then he’d try to set the stage how they themselves might react if they found someone foreign, inside their-own mother’s kitchen at 3:00 a.m. carrying a gun?

He insisted and having his unit counseled by other men and medical professionals with combat experience. After field action he preached that every unit exercised self-control especially when viewing the sights of their own killed and wounded. Skulls and crossbones, signs of contempt for the enemy, the ghoulish taking of battle field souvenirs, gruesome acts that may have been carried out by other American combat units, including acts of retribution were forbidden in the 1st Infantry Division.

The general kept his own list of telltale signs and shared them with his commanders and warned them to watch out for the warnings. There was no way in his logic that any of General Ware’s units might be mired in drug-addiction, participate in gang rape or tolerate pillaging of innocent non-combatants. No 1st. Infantry units would get wrapped-up in out-of-control acts of revenge. There would be no Mai Lai’s or Lt. William Calleys under his command, let alone misconduct charges brought against his beloved 1st Infantry Division.

The general made it a point to be visible by his troops as he took fact-finding walks through his base camps, if only to peer with his own eagle eyes into the eyes of the men. Despite the times the general remained confident his high-spirited boys would never get caught up in that type of activity. He wouldn’t permit the Big-Red One degenerate into a heartless, killing machine. He mingled with his front-liners and listened. He’d act on suggestions, even those from buck-privates. “The enemies mission is the same as ours,” he’d teach. “We just have to be sharper and work harder.”

The downside of the altruism spread by the general, may have been, that when it came to jungle fighting they were no-match against the North Vietnamese. Their counterparts were fire-tested, battle-hardened regulars—veterans, fortified by twenty-five years of fighting daily within their home field’ and whose back was up against the bamboo clawing for survival.

Ware’s division; consisting of 15,000 strong, average length of service was a mere 11 months; mostly a ball-park crowd, consisting of those who were recently back in civilian life who been dancing the twist, doing the limbo, and hanging out most of their time at rec centers.

As an Army, the NVA were proficient killers and for more-than three decades they frustrated the elite forces from at least four major foreign powers along with a number of belligerent neighbors. The home front’s popular belief that the American fighting man was more proficient than any five, from anywhere else was a myth, soon to be reckoned with during that particular away game.

Maybe with a solid year of intense training and with our boys having the right leadership, and maybe most important, that they held onto an unshakable belief that they possessed the right and conviction to be there in the first place . . . well maybe then there could have been a fair fight.

At the same time the wise general believed in his system. He was confident a disciplined unit with superior firepower, good-communications, artillery and air cover, while being led by dedicated officers could surely hold their own in tough situations. He subtlety changed the Big-Red One’s motto from “Death and Destruction,” to “Let’s Keep Each Other Alive.” But when the general decided to hit he delivered with a heavy hand. He was a professional soldier and would act accordingly. As stated, the unit under General Ware gained a reputation for being well led and well disciplined.

The division covered in huge and dangerous territory, a vast responsibility that they shared to the east with the 1st Marine Division out of Da Nang. Their combined mission: Protect the border and plug any invasion attempt by the North; keep in-check the operational capabilities of the local Viet Cong or at least hold them at bay. Major General Ware’s responsibilities were immense.

Each day his search and destroy infantry platoons, both on foot or in mechanized vehicles, conducted military sweeps in five or six different areas. The Big Red One’s raiders maintained the highest kill ratio in Vietnam. Their swift deadly armada of attack helicopters was active around the clock and armed to the teeth. The division functioned on multiple levels. Its artillery on any given night or day might be pulverizing suspected-infiltration routes in some secluded valley, or they might be covering the back side of the South Vietnamese Army, their less-than-proficient contemporaries in battle. Its infantry trudged up swollen streams, while its heavy armor secured crossroads and still, its air-wing rescued down pilots. Since the division was turned over to General Ware they were more cohesive, fortified, eager to accomplish all missions and fuckin’ A dangerous. Enemy intelligence passed it down to their own commanders in the Big Red One’s area to use extreme caution!

General Ware, during brainstorming sessions with his subordinate commanders used to comment, “Let that Saigon gang,” (referring to the glut of general officers back in the South Vietnamese capital) “let them lose the war in the south. Up here we’ll win the battles, and we’ll do the dictating.”

His men, all the way down the chain of command knew damn right well that the intelligent, kind, two-star would not let them down. His war record spoke for itself. His men firmly believed he wasn’t going to waste a single one of them on some silly escapade in the stinking jungle, especially an escapade dreamt up by some limo-riding, fat-cat, office-boy of a general whose primary interest may have been more focused on chasing pussy around Saigon.

The astute general demanded and received only the best in officers from U.S.M.C.V. (United States Military Command Vietnam). He put pressure on his staff, non-the less was careful to point out, “There better be strong thought given,” before subjecting his boys to the any unneeded risks out in the bush. General Keith Ware planned well.

*          *          *

Serving with the General was a career enlisted man, a noncommissioned officer, his Division Sergeant Major: Joseph A. Venable.

Sergeant Major Venable was another old-foot soldier who served in both World War II and Korea. He once fought along side America’s most-decorated WWII hero Audey Murphy in the South of France. Sergeant major too was highly decorated. He presented himself as rock solid and career-minded, a man’s man. If Keith Ware was “the ying” forging their relationship, then Joseph A. Venable was “the yang.”

Ramrod-straight, most of the time sergeant major demeanor remained as rigid as his gold-tipped swagger stick. Both the stick and he moved in sync as a snappy two-some, a duet, Spit and Polish. While inspecting the areas he meticulously poked and probed the enlisted confines of Division One.

Joseph Venable was the epitome of military neatness. Proud-like, a genuine chockfull of pomp and ceremony, he stood out as impeccable and forever spotless.

There’s a distinct difference comparing clean, neat and stringently kept up State side forts verses messy war zone base camps. Venable and his enlisted men were eking out base camp life dealing with, stick-all-over-you, thick, gooey mud or hot-winded, choke you and blind you, dust storms. Yet one could never tell what the environment was by the condition of Venable’s spotless uniform or his overall persona!

The pocked-marked faced lifer boasted an unblemished record. He relished his reputation for being tough, but fair. To his fellow noncommissioned officers he was an icon yet not one to bull shit or to be toyed with. As a military muscle he thrived and glowed while talking military jargon. He loved the Army so much Joe Venable was a rare soldier who actually savored the weak, dishwater taste of mess-hall coffee, and actuality praised it often referring to it as robust, fantastic and full-bodied. Even the disrespectful FTA (Fuck The Army) crowd had to give credence to his dedication.

Despite the outward differences between Major General Ware and Sergeant-Major Venable both men harbored the same goals. They felt an obligation. Once their troopers tour in the battle zone was complete both commanders’ duties dictated shipping each soldier back home in one piece and alive. At the same time they were set on completing their mission. Both harbored deep admiration for one another.

General Ware, without hang-ups, was not one to be apprehensive while delegating lawful authority. He encouraged the sergeant major to run his noncommissioned officers as he saw fit. He made sure regular and reserve officers under his command understood they should yield to the right-of-way and gave valid license, permitting sergeant major to drive the bus when it came to enlisted-man matters. Unlike many other front-line units in Vietnam the Big-Red One hummed with harmony and operated efficiently as one-cohesive outfit from the top to the bottom.

*          *          *

The special orders arriving at 1st Division directing Captain Louis Virgo as the new III Corps Adjutant mandating the Captain be attached within his swell division didn’t go down well with General Ware. He rang up General Abrahms himself vehemently complaining about the transfer.

General Abrahms, who then was the Supreme Allied Commander in all of Vietnam, told Ware, Virgo’s assignment orders came from Department of the Army at the Pentagon level, from a higher command than SACV and that the assignment was out of his hands. Telling General Ware he should know better than bother him about some Captain he once shared history with and to “soldier up” and live with the incoming transfer and that was final. Ware even surprised himself bothering Creighten with something personal.

When he hung up the field phone with General Abrahms, Ware did complain to Sergeant-Major Venable, “I don’t like the smell of it. This kid’s a smart ass! I’ve had trouble with him before! He’s pompous and spoiled. He comes from some “hoity-toity” family back in Florida.”

The sergeant major’s eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched with each accusation coming off the lips of Ware. It was strong talk from the usually serene general. The sergeant major didn’t take well to seeing his general upset and in such a state. The idea of some watched-out-for measly captain made his blood boil. It wasn’t like the old man to let something so trivial get under his skin . . . and so fast.

“Do you know that he’s a physician? Imagine, first becoming a doctor, and on top of that, afterwards his family sent him to England, and he attended Oxford, and earned his fellowship before showing up at the Point. With all of his accomplishments, and so young, there’s still something mysterious about him, something that smells. I can’t put my finger on it.”

He confided in the sergeant major and went on to reminisce about the incident at the Point. He suspected for many years, even though he possessed absolutely no proof, that his run in with the then plebe had something to do with his reassignment to Panama.

His tour as Commandant at West Point, normally would have lasted another two years but . . . just like that, he was moved on. Because of that wrinkle in his career, time wise, it took an additional three years for his first star to be pinned on his epaulets. He wondered often, bothersome thoughts, he never shared with Edna, and with Edna he shared just about everything. He wondered plenty.

He chased away the thoughts many times over about the idea that a plebe back then could wield such enormous influence. The realization that someone up-the-line packed the wallop and nerve to issue credible orders to move him out from the position as Commandant of The United States Military Academy was mind astronomical!

That facet alone haunted the military executive. A few months of some soul-searching, after being transferred Ware concluded, that it was absurd to continue to harbor such thoughts yet his innards usually told him different. Throughout a lifetime of service and three wars, his innards, same as weather vanes, had never been wrong.

The next Monday, Captain Louis Virgo presented his credentials to Major General Keith Ware. He did so in proper military fashion and gave the general his full military courtesy. The general witnessed such in his military past and wasn’t so responsive to the captain’s boot licking. The general didn’t mince words or feelings.

“I don’t know who you know, nor do I care, young Captain! Up here we do two things. We keep each other alive and we kill as many of the enemy as we can find. While serving as III Corps adjutant, I remind you that you are under my command. You’re to keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut, unless I ask your opinion! Let me be specific. Before you send one report back to three-Corps, before you eke out one scrap of paper, it comes across my desk first. Do you understand, Captain?

“I also expect you to request a transfer through the AG at the earliest opportunity. I don’t want to hear a peep out of you . . . and I say this all to you, Captain Virgo, with my full faculties . . . so, my boy, watch your step!”

Captain Virgo remained at the position of attention even after the general finished his spiel. An awkward minute of silence lapsed and the captain remained braced at attention, frozen in place and staring straight ahead. Regardless of the rigid body language an arrogant smirk was a clear indication the respect was feint. The smirk went unseen by the general, who never bothered to look up from his desk into Virgo’s arrogant, aristocratic face. Instead he routinely and nonchalantly shuffled paper work. The general was disgusted, knowing damn right well Captain Virgo was “somebody’s boy.” He ignored the at-attention officer as if he were wallpaper.

Captain Virgo cleared his throat, staged some humility and respectfully asked, ‘If that would be all, sir?’ General Ware grunted, in an ambivalent manner, an indication to “get the fuck out!” Virgo hopped to it; commenced a snappy salute, smartly did an about-face, and paraded his disrespectful butt right out the general’s door. All the while, he kept the creepy-kid smirk plastered on his sneaky puss.

One month after Captain Virgo’s arrival at 1st Division General Ware was awakened in the middle of the night by one of his aides.

“Sir! You better come down to operations . . . There seems to be a problem!”

 

CHAPTER 6

 

Luke Warm sat naked on the filthy sofa with the doobie still stuck to his bottom lip. He stared at the T.V. not really paying attention. A baby-faced cop, wearing a shiny suit, was on the witness stand emphatically denying any guilt about the Rodney King episode.

Glancing down at his telephone answering machine he noticed the blinking red light. He sighed and reluctantly pressed the button.

Beep! . . . “Luke! Billy G. . . . Say, we hafta talk. Listen! . . . I’ve been getting all kinds flack from the post office, ya know . . . about all the stuff . . .ya know, stuff coming for you in my P.O. box.

“I’m gonna hafta ta ask ya to get your own P.O. box. I don’t need the bullshit to tell ya the truth. When I said you could use my box number, I didn’t think that there would be so many problems. Anyways, I have some mail for ya . . . can ya come by and pick it up. Come see me later on today. O.K.?”

     Beep-beep! . . . “Luke Warm, this is Victor Paparelli, at Maui Isle Realty, we need to receive a rent check of some sort by noon tomorrow, or we’ll be forced to take legal action which we prefer not to do. That would be most unpleasant. We haven’t received a pittance from you in over three months. Luke please call 874-7006 as soon as possible.”

Beep-beep-beep! “Good morning! This is Maui Collections INC., we are trying to get into contact with one Mr. Luke Warm. Please have him call Mary Astor at 242-9000.”

Four beeps **** “This is American Express — Mr. Quigley — it is absolutely imperative that Mr. Luke Warm contact us ASAP. Please do so at 1-800-766-0900!”

Beep-beep-beep-beep! “Hello, hello, this is All-State Insurance. This call is in reference to a past-due account belonging to Lucky’s Limo Service Inc. If there is someone there who can talk to us about the over-due account, please call our Honolulu office 1-455-7800, please ask for Ms Ventura, thank you.”

Five beeps; ***** the devil himself calls?

“Boy! That was a long beep. Lucky, baby, you must have a lot of messages. Hey asshole, Harry Gross here. I’m calling you from sunny Seville. Can ya hear the salsa music in the background? I want to let you know we’ve received your Spanish work-visa. We just got it in from Madrid.

“My Honolulu office should be getting copies by week’s end. You’ll have to travel to the Spanish consulate in San Francisco in order to pick yours up. Are you coming? . . . Call me right away, at 1-034-345-456-8787.

“Hey! I never knew your real name was Luke Warm! That’s a pisser! Luke Warm! Where the fuck did you ever get a name like that? . . What were your parents thinking? . . No wonder you go by, Lucky. . . Anyway — call me as soon as possible. It’s urgent. I have to know what’s going on . . . Aloha, Harry.”

*          *          *

Luke didn’t bother to copy down or memorize the number belonging to the creditors. It wasn’t likely they’d be involved in any sort of settlement. He’d go see Billy G. He did jot down Harry Gross’s number. If he were to call Harry back he had better make it quick. The telephone company threatened to turn off his phone service by Friday if he didn’t come up with some money.

Options? Few.

After the divorce the legal system took over, Foreclosures received the courts stamps of approval and Chapter Seven of the U.S. bankruptcy law came into vogue, mandating he’d close his beloved Lucky’s. The remainder of other enterprises soon went by the wayside.

Initially, he stashed away a substantial amount of cash but even that impressive stockpile of Franklins couldn’t sustain his lavish lifestyle. Time kept rolling along like old-man-river. He lost sports bets. Some last-ditch efforts, desperate and foolish investments turned sour. Then came the foolish episode with the girl.

That whirl away to Vegas cleaned him out. In the last 18-months he burnt bridges and ruined relationships he spent a lifetime building. Luke pressed for loans, from friends, from enemies, from anybody. He mostly Welched; he couldn’t pay. Shelving shame, he blatantly sought-out and accepted acts of charity. He made the rounds until he exhausted the good will.

After stiffing his creditors, and letting down friends, he resorted to making-book on sporting events. That endeavor served as another error because then he was being hounded by a couple of tough-talking Samoan hoods, from over in Honolulu, asking around the island about him. They were enforcers for the local syndicate. He’d yet to deal drugs or pimp whores.

Luke needed to do something . . . anything . . . and do it fast. He hadn’t put in an honest day’s work in years. What could he do—sell-cars? “Nah.” He wasn’t about to lower himself, or perhaps become a; (saying it almost gagged him) bartender — pouring drinks at some Maui nightspot.

Luke remembered an old, black-and-white film where the ex-boxing champ was portrayed as a bust out, punch drunk, whose sole existence was cleaning up some old gym. That vision of such a falling from grace and reduction paralyzed Luke with fear.

He’d have no stomach having familiar people referring to him, pointing him out, nor could Luke’s ears stand to overhear bar patrons passing the word around the bar how Lucky once having it made, and how he went down the drain and how he became a bunco stiff.

Worse, there were those harping about his past and how he was just plain lucky. Then, there were Mauians, who would insist upon referring to him as Lucky.

“Hey! Lucky, get me another Bud, will ya! . .

“Hey! Lucky, ya got some change for smokes.

“Hey! Lucky, ya gotta light?”

He still clutched onto his worthless pride.

Two years before, with some embarrassment, he backed out of Harry’s earlier proposal.

Harry, not one to show disappointment, badgered Lucky, that it was his loss, but nevertheless he invited Lucky along for the ride. Harry, who Lucky saw in his full light as an opportunist, relentlessly pressed Lucky how he needed his expertise. Lucky shrugging, said he’d consider. He’d rather-not deal with Harry when it came to business.

Circumstances shifted to the critical stage. Luke clearly recalled Harry boasting how he paid some of his World’s Fair managers bonuses after the fanfare, in amounts up to $75,000, or even as much $100,000. If this World’s Fair equaled such a scale, as large as Harry predicted, there may be bonuses even higher!

Luke surmised plenty of key positions were still available on Harry’s team. Harry mentioned he’d be hiring as many as 2,000 Spanish employees alone. Harry went on to say he’d match them with another 200-or-so of his own people. Luke presumed the strength alone of his buddy-buddy relationship, then throwing in his past, and his reputation as a top-notch restaurateur. . . Surely Harry would have an important job in mind for him.

There’d be some eating of crow and it would be difficult. Luke wasn’t used to playing second fiddle. His options were few/Command decisions were at hand. He was painted into a corner.

Luke rehashed some of the earlier conversations where Harry laid out his spiel, “The cash flow is non-existent until the fair opens, and until the money starts rolling in everybody from on the management team from top to bottom gets paid a mere thousand bucks a month . . .”

Until serious money began to fill coffers, people were paid enough to take care of living expenses. Harry confidently forecast, when the crowds ballooned on a daily basis, sales rose dramatically, so did the monthly salaries. He boasted, “Near the end of the fair my key people are clearing as much as 4K a month — cash.”

Those thoughts could only propel Luke into reminicentville. Back in the good old days Lucky siphoned off as much as 4K a week, and then there were the Lucky perks. He’d pluck a hundred-thousand-dollar bonus every six months. Why not? He and Debra were the sole principals! They began the business with their-own saved capital, weighed and took the risks, worked hard and were paid off big time.

Conditions then were different.

With the storm in his life, a hefty salary offered a glint of sunshine. The romantic notion of working in a foreign country, plus cashing in on a super-sized bonus could stop the bleeding and heal some of Luke’s financial maladies. The lure was becoming enticing within Luke’s tired-gray eyes. In addition, and pragmatically thinking, with the ways things were going, it might not be such a bad idea to let things cool down a bit on Maui.

Once Maui beaches were his paradise on Earth. With the erosion of his personal life and with the changing of the tides, the balmy Pacific isle parlayed to a flip side, Maui became his Devil’s Island; he was imprisoned and impoverished in paradise.

Luke checked the time of day. Visible from the face of his broken-down VCR, aqua-blue, digital figures flashed 11:05 a.m.

Halfway around the world, in Seville, it was nighttime10:05 p.m. Spanish Standard Time.

Luke pulled himself together, inhaled a deep breath and picked up the phone and began pounding out a long sequence of numbers.

*          *          *

“Lucky, baby,” came the cheerful voice. We’ve just started dinner but that’s O.K. . . .

“So I hear through the wireless coconut that the world’s been a little tough on you lately?”

Luke brushed off the slight, papering it over, seeing through Harry’s condescending ploy, so to place him on the defensive. “We all have our ups and downs.”

“Look, Lucky! Get on a fucking plane and come over here. I could use a bull like you. There’s lot of money to be made, and I need some people that I can count on. You’re that type of mensch . . . So, whattaya say?”

“Well I’ve been giving it some thought . . .”

Not giving Luke a chance to fully answer.

“Guess what? . . . Johnny S. . . . your old East-coast buddy from your furniture-selling days is over here with me . . . And remember Heather and Carmen? . . our two friends from a few years back, ho-ho-ho, remember you and me, in the back of the limo, and the time we had up in the Hyatt? Well anyway, they’re here too ,and they’re doing marvelous. Who knows? Once you get here, maybe we can all get together again, if you know what I mean.”

*          *          *

Luke was aware that the girls were supposed to be in Spain and he mentioned it to Harry. He actually visited Heather and Carmen in the recent past. He saw them on-and-off. Sometime after their initial lewd encounter, both women relocated to Maui from Honolulu, and they struck up a friendship with Luke. They filled in Luke they might take a gamble, throw caution to the wind and join Harry Gross’s World’s Fair circus.

By then Luke viewed Heather and Carmen as more than coke whores.

Just after the Heather and Carmen moved to Maui, they sought out Luke for tips about getting settled on the “Valley Isle.” Then the Lucky’s legacy was rapidly dwindling, but his misfortunes didn’t faze the girls, and they were still grateful for his help. To their credit they made little of his financial demise. They invited Luke over to their rented condo for house warming dinners. They spared him any embarrassment about going into details why he wasn’t a big timer anymore, and on top of that, they were considerate enough to refer to him as Luke. He remembered having a nice time.

On the other hand, Johnny S.’s name came as a complete surprise. He and Johnny S. were from way back. Back in Hartford, Connecticut, they started out together in the furniture-liquidation business, as young hustlers. Johnny S, as far as Luke was concerned, was a great guy.

With that information being digested, Harry went on to paint a rosy picture about the World’s Fair. Spins such as fantastic and colossal were some of the adjectives lipped. But the mention of “big-money” reduced further desire to hear more in Luke’s mind.

Harry said he was swamped and could use Luke to help pull them through, and he stated at least three times there was plenty of money to be made.

The downside, he’d have to pay his own airfare over, but could be put up at the company apartment ‘til he settled in. His travel expenses and initial put out would finally be covered after being on the job for 30-days.

Harry insisted, across the board it worked that way for everybody. Harry reminded him to-not-dare show up without first stopping over in San Francisco to pick up at the Spanish consulate a waiting-for-him documentation and a work visa.

Luke then didn’t realize the extent of Harry’s manipulation and refusal to take care of details. Harry always flew by the seat of his pants, pants mostly full of shit.

Of course he failed to mention to Luke beforehand he wrongly prompted potential workers to buck the Spanish visa system. Harry never measured the extent of Spain’s strict rules, figuring he could hide his underhanded ways behind the magnitude of the event.

Some of his past recruits mistakenly heeded Harry’s advice. A few months before he instructed them to drop everything and sprint right over, right away, and Harry gave them the green light to disregard the formalities, said he had influential friends in high places.

Once they arrived in country without an approved work visa, all the energy they mustered became moot points. Therefore the poor chumps efforts unraveled, and sadly, they became stuck in a visa limbo. Harry would only shrug his shoulders.

From their standpoint they’d never be able to obtain the proper credentials needed in order to work in Spain. Their only option was to travel all the way back to America, or Canada, and re-apply. It would have to be at their expense and time consuming.

In Luke’s case his paperwork had been completed two years before.

Harry lamented and told those who acted solely on his lame promises that he was sorry, and went on to blame the Spanish, blaming them for being preoccupied by terrorists, accusing them of being a Third World nation. He put on a phony show, and brayed further about all those formalities, and he whined about the beefed up security, and how it was so ridiculous.

“The fuckin’ Spicks are paranoid.”

Harry, on Luke’s dime, talked at Luke for another ten minutes, never addressing some of the nuts and bolts about precisely what he’d be doing, what his needs might be or offering any strong or friendly advice about Luke traveling off to a foreign country.

“Call me as soon as you get to Madrid!”

*          *          *

Luke did possess an ace-in-the-hole, stashed away for a rainy day in the form of a not-yet-marred Visa Card. A chilling thought! . . .The credit bureau may have already cancelled its purchasing power. Not so sure about the card’s validity he dialed up a maui travel agent and ordered an airline ticket. He held his breath.

The plastic held water!

It was time to get out while the getting was good. He purchased a one-way ticket for Seville, Spain. For the time he’d leave behind his woes, and place them in deep-freeze. On March 28th, 1992, he’d make his escape, and be off to Europe. He verified further through an 800 number that the Visa Card boasted a credit limit of $3,000.

On the top of the back-bedroom dresser was $242 in wrinkled bills. Down at the bank, in the almost-empty drawer of his safety-deposit box were stock certificates for 500-shares of Resources Inc., an oil exploration company, with a worth shrunk to a crummy $1,750, that’s after Shearson-Leahman knocked-off their piece.

Five years before, back when he was happening, Lucky spent over $420,000 acting on a stock tip from his banker and purchased 20,000 shares of the equity issue for $21 a pop. After the equity plunged below $5, with few options options, he began to sell off the remaining 19,500 shares of the deflated issue. His banker buddy even extended a courtesy safety-deposit box, so to keep the certificates in. That banker buddy was long gone by 1992.

When he arrived at the bank, it burnt Luke up that he had to fork over to the local branch $65, so to renew his safety-deposit box rental. A week earlier he would have been off Scot free.

Combining those wrinkled bills sitting on the dresser, and the imminent stock transaction, Luke’s road money was a whopping $2,492. The available credit on the Visa could stake him for the time being. He bore in mind to deduct from his credit ceiling the $850 for his airline ticket.

Luke became somewhat exhilarated; the spending and foraging liquid assets rejuvenated the old juices. Spending money always played as one of Luke’s favorite pass times.

Luke caught a case of getta-away fever by making plans to travel. The dose made him giddy as small accomplishments rose his spirits,

It might even be fun over there . . . and a chance to work with Johnny S. again.

The idea of Heather and Carmen being there wasn’t bad either Luke conjured.

Luke scheduled himself to spend three days in San Francisco. As Harry mentioned, it was necessary for him to stop by the Spanish consulate to pick up his work visa.

Luke huddled with Billy G. . . .By then Billy G. remained his sole friend still backing him on Maui. At the same time Billy G. didn’t mince words; saying it wasn’t fun watching his friend throwing his life away, sorry because he didn’t desire to ruffle a strong friendship.

Only because Luke was going off to Spain to straighten out his situation, Billy G. warned Luke up-front he heard too much scuttlebutt and implored with him not to ask for money.

Luke — because of the generous nature of Billy G. — shared the use of Billy G.’s P.O. Box, The good act by a buddy brought on a lot of needless pressure down on Billy, him fending off Luke’s bill collectors and then the tax letters. The mere mention of Luke’s name brought on ominous inquiries and curious looks from the postal workers.

The Hawaiian locals who worked the 96753 post-office would say in island pidgin, “Hey, brah! Da-kine, your friend, dat Lucky guy, he wen’ have plenty hu-hu, heh? We no-know what for do, all dat-kine stuff wen’ go in your box, brah!”

Billy’s reputation was starting to suffer because of his association with Lucky.

Because Luke was departing, Billy G. permitted Luke to place some of his ragged possessions in his warehouse. The bottom line, Billy G. was solid, he was the kind of guy who would go to the wall for a friend. He’d offered to try and sell Luke’s four-year-old, 928 purple-colored Porche.

Luke told Billy to ask $13,000 for the then-faded, dented, torn upholstered, with a stinking interior from the strong scent of cat urine. The what was becoming a junker was annoyingly loud because a worn-out muffler. Billy G. cautioned he’d accept whatever he could get, said he’d wire it off to Luke.

Luke could depend on Billy G.

Luke hadn’t been on the Mainland since that fateful trip to Las Vegas. He couldn’t resist what green money could buy, and what a blue credit card could guarantee.

Upon arriving Luke set up camp at the Huntington, on Nob Hill, at Taylor and California, across from The Grace Cathedral. In the good old days Lucky and Debra might camp out at the elegant Huntington for a month at a clip. Because he was a good customer, and his standings at the establishment still remained untainted he qualified for a special rate.

During more-brash days, Lucky used to say, “Those cock-suckers used to give me a $350 a day suite for a buck-and-a-quarter. I give the prick-faces another $350 a day in room service.”

When Luke pulled up to the front of the Huntington, he hesitated inside the San Fran cab.

Just outside the cab’s door Teddy Calloway beamed. Proudly he posted himself nearby the hotel’s brass-handled doors as if he was posted there to wait for and greet the once-lavish Lucky.

Seeing Teddy sparked memories and Luke hoped Teddy wouldn’t be disappointed. Luke wouldn’t present himself as the lively rooster of a Lucky he used to be by springing from the limo while brandishing $20 tips. By then, he was just plain Luke.

Teddy yanked open the cab’s backdoor with gusto. A smiling face greeted our sap accompanied by a strong helping hand.

“Mr. Lucky! . . .Why it’s Mr. Lucky! . . . Welcome back to the Huntington, sir.”

Seeing there wasn’t much luggage for him to handle.

“Not much of a stay this time hey, Mr. Lucky?”

“Nah, only in for a few days before heading-off to Europe.”

“That’s our, Mr. Lucky! . . . Always globe trotting hey, sir?”

Luke, not wishing to be lured into the old-Lucky character, but with a sincere smile said in a manner sounding as if it was spoke in scripted from an old-Bogart movie, saying that he just didn’t get around much anymore.

“Just as long as you come visit us once in a while, Mr. Lucky . . . That’s all that counts!”

Luke, flattered by Teddy’s heartwarming reception, permitted the old-Lucky sportsmanship show itself, if just a bit, especially the way he slipped a five-spot into the porter’s palm.

With grace and dignity Teddy accepted the bill, burying the gratuity with magician-like mastery, and went on to lug Luke’s carry-on into the lobby.

Luke taking no chances, to avoid a potential embarrassing situation, elected to pay for his room up front. He held his breathe once again while the card went through the process. It did! And his status as a Huntington preferred customer and the accompanying $125-a-day rate held up.

Further inside the lobby while on the way to the elevator, a small gray-haired man, dressed in Huntington’s blue-tunic, brass-buttoned elegance, delivered a San Francisco Examiner to Luke. He placed it in Luke’s mid-section with assurance, the way a quarterback hands off a football into the mid-section of a rushing ball carrier.

Luke accepted the paper, halted ad then turned. He extended his hand and shook Fred’s.

“It’s nice to see you again, Fred.”

Luke fondly remembered Fred. He recalled how one time it was Fred who found his daughter’s Coo-coo, a mangy member of his family, but then in the form of a child’s missing doll. The worn-and-torn doll was one of those indispensable kiddy keepsakes little Ginger wouldn’t think to give up, a little girl’s most precious possession she lugged with conviction all the way to the Mainland.

The little girl, after the misplacement was in total hysterics, and Coo-coo’s cataclysmic loss promised to ruin a week’s stay for the family while in the city by the bay! If her favorite doll weren’t found there would be hell to pay.

It was trusty Fred who found and returned Coo-coo.

Teddy and Fred were just two of the Huntington’s trusty staff. Besides the handshake, he slid Fred a fin.

On his way up to his room Luke dwelled on the fact, that Teddy and Fred were workingmen. He further contemplated about the two men, a dying breed, in a world over-flowing with yucks whose only aspirations seemed to be big-deals. Luke dwelled, admiring how certain men, regardless of their occupation, how they maintained their dignity. Satisfied men, with qualities, qualities Luke recognized then as worthwhile and he took note how they displayed no second-thoughts about opening doors, or carrying luggage for a horde of mostly condescending bastards, doing their duties while extending earnest smiles and friendly mannerisms.

They played the game, talked the talk and walked the walk. For pathetic comedians they’d belly laugh at their not-so-funny jokes, yet were tactful enough, respecting the boundaries not to over-do it.

That cadre of taxi-hailers, with no acumen for chemistry, algebra, or English Literature, ambulated their own brilliance and never forgot a face or a place.

These days, men with class and finesse, don’t come cheap. A refined extended palm for services rendered is all one needs to see, so as to remind one it’s the way the system works. In simple words the accepting palm says, “You guys perform your brain surgery, slay the stock market, and launch rockets. I’ll provide you an umbrella, get the luggage, and park the car when your ass is dragging.”

Their low-key persuasive approach at times is misconstrued by cheapskates, who don’t tip, envisioning such as no-more than a velvet fleece job. Brighter people appreciated their importance.

Luke came to grip that he too would soon have a job, and become a workingman for the first time in many years. The thought of it felt good.

Feeling in an enterprising mood, once in the room, and while enjoying his complimentary tea and croissants, Luke did some arithmetic. Thinking to himself, Hmm . . . let’s see? Teddy gets a five from me. Let’s say . . . the average is three-bucks. Luke then figured; Teddy might greet one guest every five minutes at the Huntington’s busy door. That’s . . . $60 per-hour — multiply that figure by 8 hours, that’s . . . wait a fuckin’ minute! . . . $480 a shift! And that’s cash, plus a modest salary from the Huntington and good fringe benefits! What a hustle!

No responsibilities, just dry clean that tunic, have a decent haircut, and show up with shined shoes.

No wonder Teddy was able to come to Hawaii every year with his wife, and how else could they afford to eat at Lucky’s. Luke suspected when Teddy ventured off to Hawaii that past year and didn’t find Lucky’s open he probably wondered what happened.

Teddy showed too much class to bring up the eatery.

Luke contemplated the forthcoming fruits from his soon to be labor. He once heard some fool on the Larry King Show profess: Smarts and hard work were the key ingredients to success, and if that recipe was followed, then the idea of luck would fall into place automatically. Luke caught himself as he began to think like a practical man.

Luke asked Teddy to hail him a cab the next morning. He slipped him another five, and motored off Nob Hill, down California Avenue towards the Mission District. When the cab pulled up to the Spanish consulate he discovered a pleasant-looking, two-storied, yellow-and -brown, Tudor home, in the midst of a well-cared-for upper-middle-class, residential neighborhood. Inside the process went smoothly.

After he received his proper credentials he strolled the surroundings in the warm late-March sunshine for the rest of the afternoon. Luke strolled through Golden Gate Park.

He waded his way within the amber rays of waning afternoon’s light. The fog rolled in from the Pacific, enveloping the mighty, rust-colored towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. Wispy white translucent foggy ends curled their misty tentacles around the upright girders, reminding Luke of some of those long-gray beards he observed worn by many of San Francisco’s street bums. He also noticed while out and about how the ranks of the street people expanded and consisted of more than just a hodgepodge of old winos. To Luke’s surprise there were entire families out there, people who once may have held onto some sort of promise. Things were tough in America.

Those sights startled him and brought his own situation to light.

Luke started out as a street kid. For twenty years he isolated himself in safe-balmy Hawaii. He was prepared and expected to see the “alch-kee’s,” and bust-outs, out there for too many reasons and the rest of the unfortunates grinded down by capitalism. Other poor souls perhaps, people who couldn’t erase from their minds, trauma, heartbreak and other failures that nod an ugly head in a free marketplace. For Luke those heart-gripping sights sent his persona down another level and what rose was a startling scary view of him stuck in their shoes. He better wise-up.

Clutching onto the currency in his pocket — he hailed a cab and told the driver to take him over to North Beach. The derelicts hungry faces may have prompted his-own hunger.

Deciding, for the evening, he’d cast away any bad thoughts and look to the future. At Cafe Viva, he enjoyed a wonderful meal, served as a piled-high dish of perfectly cooked pasta. The pasta was topped with jumbo shrimp and smothered with a mouth-watering chipotle cream sauce, accented by generous snips of garlic and lemon. He washed it all down with a reasonably priced bottle of Louis Markham’s, Cabernet Savagion.

He remained amused watching and listening to the wise-guy Sicilian waiters, with mischievous tendencies to abuse, insult and break the balls of the bistro’s more-passive diners.

Cafe Viva maintained a raspy reputation for putting their diners through hoops, the virtual and laughable ticket to ride before offering their gah-gah patrons a chance to sample their fabulous faire. The rubes lined up for insults and eats. Lack of street sense placed them as out-of-their-league.

There they were, gluttons for punishment for kick-ass eats while subjecting themselves and their balding heads, big noses and horn-rimmed glasses demeanor to be poked fun of and even subjecting their wives or girl friends’ asses all towards turn-your-face-red ridicule, yet that was the joint’s charm. The willing and hungry were given no choice but to take it in order to hang around for the pasta payoff! The stronger stock of clients, hip to the ruse, parlayed themsevles as god-damned, good sports, rather than stilt their phony elitism that came taxing in from Sausalito. The bottom line: the razz-filled establishment got away with it because the food was absolutely fabulous.

The joint reminded Luke of the old Lucky’s.

Luke summoned— Lucky’s bantering was more good-natured. As Luke enjoyed his terimiso he eaves dropped.

A short and stocky Sicillian waiter began to lean on a 30-ish, conservatively dressed dude brandishing a staid demeanor. The Gucci loafered, prissy-faced sap, accompanying a party of seven with molded looks, stemmed from the same anal-retentive tribe. Stiff they were. But the initial yuck, one of eight, escorted a stunning big-eye brunette, ravishing, all woman, who appeared more like a young version of an Ava Gardner.

As they waded into the restaurant the waiter pasted a phony smile on his brazen face for the benefit of the woman and then turned from that jackal smile to an envious smirk as he did toward the lead Yuppie.

“Madon! Mama, mia, such a Bella Dona, with a scungiel like this!”

The waiter seated the seven at a round table, but then took the glamorous one by the hand and took her toward a two-seater. The rest obediently sat down as the doll went along with the ruse. Senior pulled out her chair opened a napkin and folded it out on her lap. He clapped his hands and other waiters bringing wine and flowers fluttered around the two-seat table. The rest were ignored. Piping hot food immediately was placed in front of the bombshell while the waiter sat down across from her and poured a glass of wine.

The waiter called over one of his compatriots, whispered into his ear and they both craned their neck in the direction of the other seven. The lost seven hadn’t been offered so much as a glass of water. The waiter whose ear took the esoteric info strutted over and told the other seven to get out! “She has new friends now,” the waiter dictated.

Luke laughed and then paid his bill with his still valid plastic.

The next day Luke went to Market Street, and did some additional credit card shopping. Some new jeans, shirts, high-top, black, Air Jordan’s, an alarm clock, and what proved later to be a wise pick up, one of those small, battery-run computers, which translated Spanish-to-English and English-to-Spanish. He’d need it.

Another shock! He couldn’t help but notice how drugs were being sold openly, and in broad-daylight. with police cars parked right on the corners. Where the hell were Michael Douglas and Carl Malden? He was living in a different time.

Overhearing, “Give me some of that mo-fuckin’ night-life!” Luke turned his head out of curiosity. A mouthy-black girl approached a tall imposing dude crowned with a sky-high Georgetown baseball cap.

The black man became poetry in motion as he moved with grace and precision, dealing out drugs on the street corner like a stadium hot dog vendor. His large hands moved in and out of his two-color, blue-black windbreaker and khaki utility pants. Sewn into both garments a variety of pockets, in strategic places. Cash money was deep-sixed into one, loose change into another. Surfacing out of different pockets came what looked like packets of white-powder. Emerging from another bulging pocket came additional plastic bags, some which contained other substances, and even more from other-zippered hide-a-ways.

Luke spent his last night in America sporting around the city.

Back at the hotel, he folded and packed his new stuff for the trip, and made ready for his flight across the North American Continent.

After a brief layover at Kennedy, it would be onward across the Atlantic. He took inventory. Minus the airline tickets . . . a $600 hotel bill . . . $375 on Market Street, and the $100 tab at Cafe Viva, plus a few other incidentals. Luke then possessed $1,000 credit remaining on the card. He had blown a thousand in cash from his original stash of $2,492. He was holding $1492.

Five-hundred-years after 1492 A.D., not knowing the future, he was off to a new old land alone, he’d have to watch his sheckles and become extra careful with his precious yet shrinking capital.

 

CHAPTER 7

 

Dr. Jose Luis Rocio erred, perhaps on purpose, perhaps to loosen a royal strangle hold, whatever. The faux pax was the only miscue he ever orchestrated during his-and-hers long-and-close relationship.

He requested permission to accompany Columbus on “Enterprise towards the Indies.”

She gave her approval without hesitation, never blinking an eye, with a sardonic smile, but at the same time she exuded a cool-breeze. Rocio sensed the regal coldness and he shivered from the regal draft.

Things would never again be the same between them. Ironically, Dr. Rocio began to suffer from a lingering virus. Between August 1491, and the up-coming May of 1492, when the ships were scheduled to depart, the influential councilor, Dr. Rocio was never again invited back to shine within the splendor of her majesty’s presence. As he suspected, it happened; he would never again peer into her royal face.

*          *          *

Smirks couldn’t be wiped off their victorious faces, as they passed her majesty’s guards on their way out of the palace. Despite the lingering uneasy feeling inside his stomach, Rocio put his concerns aside. After Queen Isabella green-lighted Enterprise to the Indies, along with Jose Luis’ personal request on the way back to San Clemente the doctor-mayor and Columbus acted-up and celebrated as happy partners who together struck the deal for the ages. Their proposed venture created certain excitement, and with such a coup, both men forged a bond. They held back some of their jubilation, anticipating additional celebrating once they roused a sleepy Vespucci awake, so to shower him with the auspicious news. In the morning hours the three danced, and ate, and drank, and ate, and drank, and eventually passed out.

Columbus became a very busy man. Had too Vespucci and Rocio, despite Rocio’s nagging summertime cold. It had been decided Vespucci would remain behind and begin preparing essential steps for future voyages. In their absence he would have to procure additional vessels, secure docks, find warehouse space, arrange for ground transportation.

Rocio’s health failed. His own diagnosis wasn’t scientific, yet he felt his illness may have germinated from the bone-deep chill he sensed from her majesty on that-given night. He insisted upon continuing.

Jose Luis Rocio, the guardian of El Rocio, master, doctor, statesman, lordship and seen in all eyes up to that point as a trusted-confidant of Queen Isabella, led a life of which most Andalusians couldn’t help but envy. Yet, as in most lives, all on the surface isn’t necessarily true their was a persistent hair in the good doctor’s shirt. He stood as the worried father of a do-nothing son.

His sole heir named Luis Jose Rocio hadn’t amounted to much. At birth, so obstinate, that his stubbornness and unrelenting posture, along with his constant kicking, while still inside his mother’s womb, damaged his mother’s insides so that the internal damage took the life of the lovely teenage bride, despite the best efforts put forth by the talented practitioner.

The family tried to love him, and totally ignored or swept under the rug the real reasons pertaining to her demise. He made it difficult. He was nothing but trouble. His demeanor oscillated from miserable to taunting, to child brooding, to teenage bullying, as he crudely bumped into and crushed every marked milestone during his boyhood. As a young boy he showed some interest in medicine, and did spend learned time with Jose and his patients.

The boy lost interest.

Raised in splendor and despite his misgivings, his related status colored him in as pampered within a wealthy well-respected family, too lazy and not bothering to pursue a livelihood. Through all the disappointments and rejections, the bad seed’s too-kind and too-understanding father attempted to squash the rumors about his bad-tempered offspring.

Dr. Rocio insisted that the boy needed to sow his oats. Others could only shake their heads and disagree. Before his 25th birthday, while his father was in the early phases of middle-age and quite fit, the younger Rocio already collateralized his inheritance against gambling loses. The cafes and bistros of Madrid, Seville, Valencia and Gibraltar became his bad-boy playgrounds. Too often he blatantly employed his father’s good name as to ward off self-induced trouble. Reputed to have a nasty temper and bad manners, he rebuffed many a fine friendship over next to nothing.

“The boy just needs to be part of something. He feels as if the world is passing him by. If only he could be accepted by his peers and considered an equal” . . .

Perhaps the elder Rocio fantasized, ‘My boy could actually become an intricate part of this discovery? I’m sure it would carry him a long way and provide for him a new sense of worth.’ The doctor suggested such a notion and proposed it to Columbus while they were preparing to out-fit the ships with their crews.

By then, Rocio and Vespucci, despite some initial reservations, included Columbus in every aspect of the voyage. With Columbus’s braggadocio nature they didn’t have much of a choice.

After weighing the merits of Columbus’ seamanship, taking him into the fold was absolutely necessary. Rocio and Vespucci appreciated his presence of command, them giving him carte blanche and unchallengeable authority. They soberly understood, returning sea captains must be granted absolute authority. Columbus wielded full veto power when it came to prospective members of the crew. He personally approved all applicants.

One example of Columbus’ own seaworthiness during past voyages was his fussy particularity when selecting his crews. He remained cautious and cognizant through vast experience, that while at the mercy of the sea, a few malcontents and bad apples have the rotting capability to sink a ship

A mission such as they were planning had many “ifs,” and if the brew of a crew weren’t dedicated, coordinated and loyal, they could all wind-up in the drink.

Columbus flashed on doubts about the younger Rocio. He didn’t think a man without sea legs should accompany them. He also heard rumors of the man’s temperament and money problems. Throughout his merchant-marine career wisely keeping men such as the younger Rocio off of his ships.

Columbus respected the doctor and they forged a solid friendship. The fact remained, it was Vespucci and Rocio who generously laid in his lap an opportunity to carve out history. How could he refuse?

Hoping he wouldn’t regret the decision later, he gave into the grateful doctor’s request reluctantly, and voiced that it was solely out of respect for the good man.

On a sunny afternoon in May of 1492; the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria departed Seville to the cheers of well-wishers. Columbus eased his crews and their three ships into the current to nudge them along and down the Guadalquivir.

The small flotilla drifted down the Guadalquivir, under the wooden bridges and the Gothic structures that spanned the river’s brown waters on its way to the Atlantic. Upon entering the Atlantic, Columbus directed them west towards the seaport of Palos. Once there they added lumber too the masts, so to support larger sails, sails that would be required to prove their ships as even more sea-worthy.

On August 3, 1492 they departed for the unknown.

*          *          *

Just short of a month a tragedy occurred.

Doctor Jose Luis Rocio, the nobleman, guardian and master of El Rocio, the catalyst, fell ill and died aboard the Santa Maria.

Subsequently he was buried at sea.

Death at sea in those days, as it would be today, was a grim reminder, proving how humans are so fragile when subjected to the elements. Surrounded by a hostile environment, while being restricted in almost every conceivable way, due to the amount of supplies that can be carried . . . limited medical services, and a host of disasters that can take place at any given moment that can suddenly erupt as a violent storm or heavy seas, place crews into higher hands. Tragic death at sea can test the conviction of survivors and it did.

For the men of the Santa Maria to stand on deck and witness their wrapped-in-a-tarp shipmate not so ceremoniously plopped into the sea on a splinter-filled, sun-bleached ramp remained a sobering experience. Then to have witnessed the body swallowed by the green slime of the Sargasso Sea was itself more unnerving for members of the flotilla. The murky gulf’s blanket of green weed slurped up the once bright nobleman, never once giving a lick about his long legacy, his Spanish refinement, or his royal confidants. The corpse of the nobleman represented itself merely as a cadaver, just like any other bloke’s, and so his corporal remains shortly thereafter became no more than fish bait.

The thought of such clawed at the worrying minds of men on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, realizing it surely could have been one of them. Columbus strictly recruited only well-seasoned sailors, men who understood the risks.

The majority of the three crews, were raised on sea legs. The salts crewed for captains whose temperament ranged.

Still, not one had been around The Horn, and in most minds, regardless of their vast experience, many were suspicious and terrified about what was out there beyond the offing. If there were edges out there, they’d tumble over their rims and plummet into an awful abyss! With those thoughts in mind another serpent’s head arose, lack of wind might stall them, having them drift helplessly and aimlessly until they ran out of life-sustaining provisions.

Next would come panic and then for-sure havoc. Rank and affiliation would become lost. Out of hope, the lucky ones would perish in the early stages and finally they and their vessels would become lifeless ships horribly filled with skeletons.

Death at sea gets a man thinking.

Soon thereafter, other men teetered and began to pass away from the rigors of the sea. The fear of becoming short of fresh water and threat of running out of other vital supplies, the crews of the expedition became disgruntled.

Frightening, minutes lapsed into hours, and hours seemed like days, and nights were an eternity, and the idea of going through another day dealing with the fear and the blistering heat made for jittery conditions. The mental torment became overwhelming. Disturbed about losing fellow shipmates, sun-baked, sea-weary and home sick — petrified about drifting into the stillness of the doldrums, they began to turn their colors.

While the Atlantic showed off brilliant, late-September sunsets, presenting a picturesque backdrop, and while some of the crew strummed their guitars and other matees sang bittersweet melodies of happier times, the mostly-Spanish crew boasted yeomen’s efforts to lift each others’ dwindling spirits. They ferociously clapped their hands to a flamenco perhaps to revive their worried minds. They told stories, mostly fat lies while elaborating vivid exposes. Most were of a lower class and their nil intelligence hadn’t the capacity to recognize true leadership. They lost faith and spread the word amongst themselves that Columbus might be wrong.

The scallywag of a son of the passed-away Luis Jose Rocio began to rock the boat!

If he were back home, it all then would have been his.

With a riveting realism he was marooned aboard ship and the disappointment sent him pacing the deck, holding his head in anguish, cursing himself for getting into such a fix, and saw his father as an idiot and such misgivings drove him absolutely crazy!

He cursed himself mostly for listening to his father, a trait he hadn’t given into most of his life.

Having some medical knowledge he substituted for his father’s position.

With the dropping of mates, the surviving Rocio acting as the crew’s medical practitioner was require to treat the sick but did so without any sense of care! Luis Jose cast away any bedside manners he may have inherited from his altruist father. For examples: By harpooning sea-boils, savagely, yanking out abscessed teeth, and setting broken bones with brutal force seemed like mad vengeance!

Losing out! Missing out! Having disillusions, torturing one’s self while envisioning himself lollygagging and having a merry ole time in some Madrid bistro, but then, being denied the inherited riches while sequestered at sea, with whom he saw as slime . . . Those missed connections jarred his senses.

Luis Rocio remedied his own lack of comfort for selfish reasons. The medical responsibility temporarily replaced his woes.

Continuing his barbaric ways he’d scream awful threats towards moaning men, while they helplessly withered in pain, and he insisted for them to keep still and remain impossibly quite or he’d make it worse.

He enlisted a few brutes to be his “go-fors.” For their services and self-preserving loyalty, he and they helped themselves to the precious bits of medicine left behind by the old doctor.

There, wasting away in the stinking, miserably hot, trashed-filled hulls, a bobbing-lifetime passed, filled with wind, salt and sea. He and some crew whose loyalties were eroding fantasized and then they connived.

Like the sea rats they were, the bad lot fantasized how they were going to take over the ship, kill Columbus, and make their way back to Spain.

The evil embryo forming in the dark hulls of Columbus’ ships, the distorted, prune-faced, rotten-teethed scallywags appeared as if they no longer possessed immortal souls. The scum mixed, the sewage stirred, and all melded along with the turning-fast as a ‘mad as a hatter,’ Luis Jose!

Luis Jose Rocio and those black souls further nurtured that evil embryo. They created a mutant seed, what one-day would become a sinister organization, later to be referred to amongst their own as the Black Wing.

The disgruntled self-appointed ringleader, Luis Jose, was rapidly becoming a thorn in the side of Columbus.

The stew was cooking up a mutiny.

The pot and stakes went from a simmer to a boil, after Luis Jose turned up the heat, and spread a rumor amongst the crews that in all actuality his father was insane! Luis Jose swore the elde dreamt up the so-called calculations about his shortcut to the Orient! Calculations the younger Rocio stated, never really existed.

According to what the younger Rocio was spewing, to all would listen, about Columbus’ ridiculous hunt for land along with his father’s illusions. “Fools gold!” Rocio raved, “Fabrications!” It was no secret amongst the crew about Columbus’ reputation as that of an ambitious scavenger. Many of the men signed on because they made out well in the past, recognizing Columbus as an opportunist.

Luis Jose played on Columbus’ reputation proclaiming the Italian seaman had long before been bought and paid for. Luis reeled out conjecture and spooned to remnants of the crew who would bite . . . that his dead father’s idiotic ideas . . . and that they were being driven by a too-proud and too-much-of-a-fool-to-turn-back Columbus,’ who would surely lead them all to their demise!

Mutiny; in lieu of a new route to the Orient?

Columbus getting wind of the situation cursed the fact he permitted Rocio to talk him into taking on board such a scoundrel. Columbus, with his own informants, was left with no choice but to arrest the surviving Rocio, along with the others and he placed them in chains.

As the voyage continued, Columbus’ cabin boy tossed a rock at a passing flock and hit one of the birds. It was a sparrow, not a sea-going gull. Columbus reasoned to the rest that land must be close by. But when three days passed with still no sight of land, again trouble began to brew.

From down inside the brig the younger Rocio taunted Columbus. His screams further dwindled the will of Columbus’s handful of then barely faithful. The rapidly shrinking spirits of his motley crew reached their low-water mark.

Columbus felt with little choice but to stuff the instigator’s mouth with rags, to silence him. He considered casting him adrift. The damage had already been done. Columbus forced himself to take such action rather than lose control of his three crews.

The cliché about the darkest hour . . . being just before-dawn, a metaphor, more so than any other has been known to re-ignite the barely-hot ashes of a going out fire.

To keep the faith and eke out another glimpse of a coming dawn, and by also employing hope can often help to sustain life and even rekindle the dying of dreams. For those heading for disaster, short on assets, resources and energy, while bobbing before the ebb tide there’s been after the fact survivors who’ve proclaimed, they’ve felt such a twinge, why just before rescue, while with short on strength grasping while grasping onto the thin threads belonging to that very last ray of hope.

It’s that glint, despite the odds, that sums up last-chance optimists. In their view, there’s sure to be some savior, some redeemer, or some white knight, or better yet a stroke of good fortune that just might rescue those on the brink.

     From the past and the present:

   Once-productive prosperous family men, the likes of a sorry son-of-bitch such as Luke Warm, or whether it be the crews of Columbu, who found themselves in dire straits clung and have hung onto the hope!

     Throughout history we’ve been reminded often about darkest hours. There’s no need to capitulate, because as history shows there have been instance after instance such optimists who have found themselves in deep-doo-doo yet to have eventually prevailed due to miracles that can stop them from going right down the fucking drain

     If there were a time or place or a genesis perhaps, that such a cliché had taken to the wind and come out of oblivion to take a bow. The cliché’s significant interpretation rose along with the morning sun.

Just beyond the horizon on October 12, 1492 the crews of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria witnessed the defining moment when the world changed forever!

*          *          *

Those who flirt with danger, those such as Columbus, who make it a habit to skirt the edges of the unknown and flirt in a world, a world at times that’s able to become so dark, so dark they may be no longer able to read the insides their minds.

And if only to dwell on each millennium’s reminders, way before Columbus, and according to the Bible, the Lord initially dealt Job a good-hand. That pat-hand went bad, and turned even worse.

Job’s thriving fortunes failed. His cattle were struck with plaques, and so were his wives and children and all withered and died. He became the center of ridicule as the community turned against him, and it is said that scion fell upon him. His faith was questioned and the devil tempted him to curse God; it was construed that the devil and implored then by the rest, that God cursed him.

God’s acid test: He was queried by an arc angel and asked if he lost his faith in the Lord after each catastrophic loss. Job would not cast any blame towards his Lord. He waited it out and kept the faith. Job did not throw his hand away and played the cards that the Lord supposedly dealt him a hand that could be construed by the objective as way beyond the bounds belonging to most mortal men.

Finally, after absorbing every conceivable blow thrown by the Lord, the merciful God rewarded him. Job’s good fortunes were fully restored and he went on to live a ripe bountiful life with God’s blessing!

Well into their “darkest hours,” Job, and other men, such as Moses, Henry V, Washington, Lincoln, Shackleton and Columbus lassoed onto and while holding on for their dear lives, doing so with unwavering faith to ride it out — the cliché is one that can not ever be over stated yet It’s a cliché leading directly to the wrap up.

For Columbus and the weary crews of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, during the darkest hour — the Almighty Lord surely situated that sacred land mass out there on the western horizon.

The sponsors of Enterprise to the Indes promised 10,000 maravedi to the first man who would spot the Orient. On that historic morning, the lookout on the Pinta, one Rodriguez Bermejo, with leather lungs, called out to woeful ears, “tierra!” (Land). Jubilation broke out amongst the crew.

Because Columbus would claim later, that in all actuality it was he who first spocked the land, Bermejo would never collect his 10,000. Columbus’ sworn statement, at a later inquiry, indicated no qualms about lying, “It was just after sunset, the night before when I spotted land, but I preferred to wait for morning’s sun to make sure and not mistakenly raise the hopes of the men.”

After his serendipity discovery Columbus attained peaks and valleys few men ever encounter. Noble titles such as: Don, Governor, and Viceroy were bestowed upon Christopher Columbus, done so by royalty, and even the Pope.

Upon his return he victoriously strutted down wider boulevards of Europe’s capitals, showing off his bring-backs. Plumed natives from the New Indies proved he’d set foot where no one else had.

Those parades were as effervescent and exciting as any ticker-tape parade. His claims were substantiated, showing off exquisite colorful parrots perched on the shoulders of his newfound entourage. Gold and spices filled the coffers of his attractors.

Some aspects of civilizations come to mind. To think, millions flourished within organized societies for centuries in the Western Hemisphere! But then Columbus may have chosen to pre-para-phrase Gene Rodenbury, who would come along 475-years later. Columbus declared in Rodenbury’s words, “To have boldly gone where no man has even gone before.”

He established a beachhead that would eventually lead to the two-great continents of North and South America.

To Columbus’ credit there weren’t many men living in those days who could have taken them all the way across and back. His brilliance as a seaman brought his tuckered-out, puny-fleet to land upon a paradise. Unbeknown to Columbus, they were nowhere near the Orient. For the delirious crews of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, correct geographic aspects didn’t much matter. Fresh water, fresh vegetables, game and shelter did.

Columbus named the island on which he landed: Espana, in the name of God, Spain and Isabella. Almost all of the crew was quickly back in the fold once they were made believers. They stuffed themselves beyond satisfaction with the island’s fruits and ate plenty of fresh-caught Pompano. The natives were friendly.

Columbus kept Luis Rocio and the others in chains. He would not risk sailing them back across the Atlantic. He considered execution, but Columbus, with certain moral standards, and out of a lingering memory for the once good doctor, abandoned the notion.

The energies sapped depleted his force while keeping the mutineers in irons. With no regrets, he banished them to exile, sending them towards the unexplored jungles and mountains of the newly named; Espana. He issued explicit orders. The mutineers were to be slaughtered on site if they attempted to return. Shortly thereafter Columbus triumphantly sailed back to Spain.

The travel brochure predicted getting back to the shores of Europe would be just as tricky . . . Staying with the original game plan and by using Dr. Rocio’s and Amerigo Vespucci’s charts — Columbus caught onto the North Atlantic winds, a few degrees north of the “Horse Latitudes.”

Columbus employed a sailing technique, “dead-reckoning;” a method where sailors took on the wind’s maximum strength, and then with split-second skills estimated its staying power. His helmsman maintained a constant cock on the wheel and fix on the swaying horizon.

Salts who employed the renowned sailing method wheeled a hands-on sense, in order to utilize the full capability of their boat. “Dead reckoning,” placed a bending unforgiving strain on the Santa Maria’s structure.

It was a touchy procedure. Nevertheless, Columbus became the undisputable master as a “dead-reckoner,” and in just half-the-time it took for his initial cross over, he scooted back to the shores of Europe.

History shows that when Columbus returned to Spain, and to Isabella, who wasn’t his anymore. Regardless of that loss, he was proclaimed a hero and bathed in his glory.

He glowed — bubbling in a manner that one would expect from such a “bodacious” character. In his captain’s log, Columbus regretted the death of his friend Dr. Jose Luis Rocio, and further regretted writing the report about the mutinous son of his colleague.

Columbus, for reasons that only he could explain, discounted, and blatantly left out the facts about how it was Amerigo Vespucci’s, and Jose Luis Rocio’s original idea.

“No!” He vehemently answered, after a pesty-fly annoyance constantly quizzed him by those who said different.

“I made the studies! I compared the Chinese calculations against my own findings! My brother and I shared the information with no one. I went to Vespucci with my findings, only because he was wealthy — a fellow Italian, with whom I placed my trust!”

And when it would be all said and done, Columbus was the one who finally wouldn’t let it rest and foolishly began to reveal his true self as he defended his position at every turn, “And only, because of my close business relationship with Amerigo Vespucci, and the fact that his friend Rocio was a close confidant of the queen, and she possessed the wherewithal to finance such a venture . . .

“Her Majesty was wise enough to listen to my facts, and that’s final!” He’d professed his righteousness whenever asked, and sometimes at no prompting.

Columbus was beleaguered by doubters the rest of his life, and we can suppose he never got away with his theft Scot free.

While holding office in the New World, tales of his treachery and cruelties eventually floated back to Europe. Serious people in high places soon enough too began to see through his deceit.

Feeling unappreciated he ‘weirded’ out! Columbus began to dress in friar’s clothing, perhaps his cross to bear, or while reselling his old story and proclaiming his innocence. Despite his righteous spiel there were too many doubting-Thomases. He held onto his claim that he was the first man to reach the New World, but was unable to hold onto anything else.

Vespucci on the other hand surely saw himself as utterly betrayed. Of course the crown suspected Columbus of deceit, nevertheless, they continued to back up his claim.

Isabella would not hear of any rumors or tolerate herself being attached to such a scandal. Justice and fair due was stamped upon and proclaimed privately as unimportant.

History notes: Columbus remained absolutely positive to his death, that he colonized islands situated off Southeast Asia.

Columbus led a checkered life.

Others surfaced claiming they beat Columbus to the punch.

Vespucci still possessed the valid proof that it was his expedition. He remained incensed and vengeful towards the “take the credit” for himself, Columbus. Rage propelled Vespucci to begin and finance his own expeditions.

He abandoned his pickle empire and opted to sail the blue. All along he mounted strong criticisms against Columbus and his accusations finally paid off, when after too-many follies Columbus was forcibly returned to Spain in chains, accused for misappropriations of funds while governing.

Vespucci, a renaissance man, who gave up “pickling,” unfurled his charts, hired ships, and explored the new world ‘til his death.

Throughout all the brouhahas, Vespucci kept in his camp strong ties he earlier established in the academic world.

Vespucci patiently waited ‘til just after Columbus’ death in 1506.

Among the more-learned scholars of the time, and after their reviewing of the facts and calculations, speculations went from theory to the sure thing, validating it was Vespucci and Rocio who were the genuine catalysts.

In 1507, the internationally renowned geographer and famed German mapmaker, Martin Waldseemuller, published an updated World Atlas.

Aptly perhaps, while immortalizing Vespucci, the two-new western continents were labled by Waldseemuller’s atlas. When unfolded and presented to the world, those land masses were coined by the mapmaker as “The Americas!”

So it’s ironic, and perhaps poetic justice.

Come to think . . . today . . . over 500-years later, just a pittance of locations in the new world perpetuates Columbus’s namesake, and perhaps it’s even more ironic the name given to the two great continents — are properly named after Vespucci, the small-framed, fertile-minded, amusing, Italian pickle-merchant from Seville.

With the advent of North and South America, Amerigo Vespucci’s soul finally was able to rest, satisfied such a christening focused sufficient light on the significance of his important role.

Still, 500-years later in 1992, his loyal colleague and friend; Jose Luis Rocio, hadn’t received his rightful-due.

In 1992 there were forces at hand who were going to violently change that premise.

As for Columbus, for some reason after becoming the Neil Armstrong of his time, and with three trans-Atlantic voyages under his sea legs, the fluff of Christopher Columbus all but faded. He died a forgotten and broken man.

 

CHAPTER 8

 

The baby-faced captain, the aide de camp, awakened General Ware. A particular urgency and scary expression accompanied the recent, West Point grad.

When the general arrived at The Operations Tent his staff gathered and greeted the man with additional expressions of worry. Even the division mascot, a German Shepherd named King posed an unusual anxious gape on his canine snout.

Captain Virgo, assigned to Military Intelligence was present, along with the other 25 or so other staff members, including Sergeant Major Venable.

“O.K., lets have it,” said the sober but calm, ready-for-anything General Ware.

Colonel Oliver, the G4 in charge of logistics cleared his throat and stepped forward.

“Sir, a detachment trucking military equipment left Chu Lai at approximately 0900-hours yesterday, 20 July, sir, heading towards this post E.T.A. (Estimated Time of Arrival) was to have been 2100-hours last night, sir. They have yet to arrive?”

“Have you tried radio contact?” queried the composed vet.

“They were on radio silence, sir.”

“What about the code breaker?”

Code breaker, meant sending a sequence consisting of a certain set of pre-determined radio signals permitting units to break radio silence. A unit in trouble could switch to the determined frequency, spit out a quick message in code, and then switch back to their own radio channel, remaining silent but not dead.

Annoyed the general wanted the G4 to cut to the chase and get to the point.

“The code-breaker never went into effect,” answered the discouraged G4.

“Has anyone gone looking for them?”

“Hueys with infra-red have been up and down their route for the past six hours. We’ve dropped signal flares and alerted all listening-posts from here to Chu Lai. So far there’s been nothing, sir. It’s as if they’ve totally disappeared!”

General Ware swallowed hard. He didn’t like the sound of it.

“Did they bed down? When was the last time they reported in?”

The shaky colonel, using a pointer, pointed out the location of their last reported location on the war map situated on an easel.

“What was the strength of the detachment and what was the load?”

The G4 continued, “A heavier than usual detachment headed this way, made up of 75 men, led by Major Herbert Bellman. In addition, the contingent consisted of a captain and two, second lieutenants. All officers have been in country more than six-months, along with 12 noncommissioned officers led by Master Sergeant Wayne Phillips.

“The detachment consisted of 45; two-and-half-ton trucks carrying as follows: Seven crates each, complete with: FARCON, RD-78 model, ground-to-air-radar. In addition, 48, air-to-air, side-winder, guided missiles; 246 cases of 105-howitzer artillery shells, 12, M-60 machine guns with 10 pallets of ammo, also on the manifest were 15-cases of M-16 rifles, each case carrying five weapons, plus 20,000-rounds of ammunition, finally various medical supplies along with the Division’s mail. That’s it, sir.”

“You mean to tell me, Colonel, that the entire detachment and all those supplies are nowhere in sight and we’re positive they’ve left Chou Lai in the first place?”

“That’s right, sir.”

“What about the weather? Any bad weather between here and there?”

On cue the G2 piped, “No, sir, clear weather between here and Chu Lai and its been that way the last 72 hours, sir.”

“What about enemy activity in the area?”

The G-2, whose responsibilities included weather and intelligence answered again. “The area has been swept clean for the last three weeks with no signs of enemy infiltration. We have listening and looking posts all along the route. I assigned Captain Virgo myself to chart the route and to fix the posts. Captain Virgo informs me all was solidly set into place, before the column departed from Chu Lai.”

The general, for no good reason other than not being quite satisfied with the G-2’s response requested Captain Virgo to verbally substantiate the colonel’s report.

Captain Virgo in a clear and steady voice re-substantiated the existence and placements pertaining to all looking-and-listening-posts, their positions and proximity in regards to the moving-truck column.

“O.K., here’s the deal . . . Colonel Gates! . . .Is “A” Company, of the 2nd/1st, ready to go?”

“Yes, sir! They can be dispatched on the road in a half-hour.”

“Good! Get ‘em up and going. I want a re-enforced troop from Cav. along with armored recon to cover their flanks . . . and have Company “B” of the 1st/1st, no less than 15-klicks behind bringing up the rear. Can they be ready too? . . . Oh, does Captain Miller still command Company B?”

“Yes, sir! They’re available and ready to go. And Captain Miller hasn’t been rotated back to the States just yet. He has two weeks to go.”

“O.K., have Captain Miller depart early with Company A. He can hook up with his command once he’s in the field. Very well, let’s get moving.”

By then it was 0445-hours, the general ordered further, that after morning-chow, the staff report back at the operations center by 0600-hours. The men disbursed. General Ware pulled Sergeant Major Venable aside before he could get away telling him to accompany the general to his command tent.

Both entered the command tent.

General Ware removed his potted helmet, his wire-rimmed glasses and exhaled like the concerned man that he was.

“What do you think, Joe?”

Sergeant major bit the insides of his mouth. He felt handcuffed by the situation. He would have preferred to be out-there leading a search party. But at the same time Joe Venable relished his established one-on-one role with the old man. He appreciated those precious moments as an opportunity to practice his soldier’s craft and earn some of what he was getting paid for. To be near the old man to render advice with respect and to see to it, that whatever the general decided was for the good of the division, and with his might he’d see it carried out.

“To tell you the truth, sir, I don’t like the sound of it.”

The general scratched the back of his neck. “I’ve known Major Bellman for 20-years . . . and there’s not a better transportation officer in this mans’ army. He could have been a full colonel by now with a cushy job in Saigon . . . you know . . . fattening up his retirement pay . . . yet he’s chosen to stay in logistics and he’s always around those god-damned trucks he loves so much.”

Sergeant major responded, “I’ve known Master Sergeant Phillips a long time too, served with him in Korea. I don’t know a smarter top kick. If the shit hit the fan, Reggie Phillips would have been on the horn in five seconds.

“While in the field, I know for a fact that he never rests his head less than ten feet from an RTO. (radio transmitter operator). He served with the 1st. Cav. when they were overrun on Pork-Chop Hill, in Korea. He took some phosphorous in his back from a grenade. He’d never let that happen again . . . never.”

Away from the investigative conversation between Major General Ware and Sergeant Major Venable, while alone in his officers-quarters, Captain Louis Virgo leaped for joy satisfied the initial aspects of the Black Wing’s mission went well. What the general, the sergeant-major and even the traitor Captain Virgo didn’t know at that time, were the actual accounts of the 45 trucks and 75 men.

*          *          *

The convoy after covering 120-kilometers of tough terrain pulled into a bivouac area to pitch tents for the night. Major Bellman radioed in his position into to Listening Post #60, doing so over the low-frequency radio network, one set up by the III Corps Signal.

U.S Army units in the area employed such a network. A network with a frequency’s range separated by two-to-three kilometers at most. There was no need for long-range communications. The U. S. Army didn’t desire columns or outposts to be monitored by the enemy. Instead, a chain of listening-posts were set up in advance approximately every two kilometers between Chu Lai and the big Red One’s base camp.

If any trouble broke out, surely a call could be picked up by one of the listening-posts, setting off long-range radio communications and help would be summoned rapidly. After radioing in and identifying his position to the nearest listening-post, Major Bellman set up his perimeter for the night. Master Sergeant Phillips saw to it that kill teams were posted with M-60 machine guns, re-enforced by claymore, anti-personal devices, which would be strategically located at all possible entrances leading to the convoy’s encampment.

By dark Major Bellman, Master Sergeant Phillips, and the rest of the convoy were confident their position was secure, plus insured by their own intelligence network that there was no formidable enemy force anywhere in the area. Up to that night, it was simply a milk run.

By 2400-hours a stiletto blade viciously cut Major Bellman’s confident throat from ear to ear. So were the throats cut belonging to the three other troupers on duty inside his command tent. Master Sergeant Phillips met the same demise inside the communications tent next door. Phillips lay dead, less than ten feet from the radio and its murdered radio operator. No one in the other tents heard a sound.

Only days before, four especially-trained assassins from the Black Wing were assigned and planted as replacements within the ranks of transportation detachment, them posing as truck drivers.

Just after the vicious murders a Black Winger exited the very command tent sporting the silver wings usually reserved for a U.S. colonel. He ordered the commander of the guard to have the convoy’s troopers awakened. He gave additional orders to move out. The men obeyed the colonel. The officer, who no one seemed to recognize, barked that Major Bellman and the members of his command tent were summoned back to Chu Lai . . . ASAP.

A departing helicopter substantiated their departure, and the stern-looking colonel issued additional orders. The still sleepy men, including junior officers reacted. Orders were orders. The convoy obediently saddled up for a night move.

A move of that kind wasn’t that unusual for U.S. Army convoys on route, especially in a war zone. Most pug faces will tell you the Army can never make up its mind where it wants to rest its hat. No sooner did they set up camp during past bivouacs and fortified them . . . when some brass back at headquarters decides he doesn’t care for the location of the encampment. The troopers complained as usual, the way all soldiers have complained since the first soldiering began, but as all good soldiers do, they carried-out their duty.

Machine guns were dismantled; claymores disarmed while sentries were pulled in from the perimeter. Soon thereafter, the convoy moved north without anyone suspecting or recognizing that they were taking on a doomed look.

Two kilometers north of their earlier encampment the still sleepy convoy stopped abruptly. The column sat unprotected. Not-sure-why-they-stopped, troopers were forced to sit and listen to the dark . . . a scary, spooky-sounding jungle . . . filled with insects . . . a cast of trillions, lurking in the dark, abiding solely to the laws of the jungle. The idling engines whined an eerie cry that went on-and-on more for the ears of the sitting ducks preferring not having to listen to the foreboding-sounding whine of those idle engines. Nervously they sat smoking their butts one after another, whistling in the dark not so sure just what was holding up the column. The column fanned out, thinly spread for over a mile, naked to the elements, one or two men per truck.

Bushes came to life!

Suddenly and savagely, North Vietnamese commandos jumped out of the bushes and thoroughly mugged the convoy. NVA. Kill teams were assigned to each vehicle. Like that . . . every single soldier in the convoy was slaughtered except the four Black Wing assassins.

Custer had a better fighting chance. The truck drivers trying to put up a gallant fight hardly made it outside the cabs. A few of them got off random rounds, rounds hitting nothing. Their faint crackling, muffled by the running engines, were absorbed and eaten up by sounds of the jungle.

There was no chance that anyone helpful would have heard the bray for help. No chance, because Captain Louis Virgo insured those listening-posts were emptied of friendly listeners.

Louis Virgo arranged that the personnel posted in the chain of listening-posts were altered, done so earlier in the month. His conniving brilliance permitted him to assign replacements consisting of names belonging to soldiers who would be either away from their unit, while on R&R (Rest & Relaxation), or those who were recently transferred out of the signal corps unit.

Three men were to be assigned to each listening-post. There were 120 listening-posts between Chu Lai and the 1st Division’s base-camp. Virgo’s, pre-determined calculations and provided intelligence about the convoy’s routine between First Division’s base-camp and Chou Lai would prompt him to pin-point; listening-posts: #60 and #61, as in the vicinity where he would have placed and set up the phantom listening posts.

The three-man teams manning those posts were handed their assignments and deployed, by themselves, a day before the convoys departure. That was standard procedure. Once on line it was also standard procedure for them to radio up-and-down the radio chain to initiate the link.

On that fateful night, Black Wing members occupied the phantom listening-posts #60 and #61, confirming their existence, transmitting their location to listening-post #59, two kilometers to the south, and #62 towards the north. They acted normal, employing all standard procedures and kept the chain open, passing routine information up and down the line.

Virgo’s plan fabricated a no-man’s land, without friendlies for at least six kilometers. One could yell their bloody head off for three kilometers, in either direction, and no one who would hear them or be storming toward one’s side to render help.

Virgo arranged to purchase the company list of signal unit’s names through a collaborator, an enterprising specialist fourth-class working in A.G, the Army’s branch where all personnel record files are kept. The A.G. also issued orders and transfers. It’s administrative.

The same specialist was paid an additional 100-grand for assigning those bogus names; names Captain Virgo circled in on the signal unit’s rostrum, those he personally assigned to man the specified listening-posts. At the same time the ambitious specialist typed a phony-list, one that would mesh with the signal company’s, company clerk.

The replacement drivers were inserted into the convoy almost the same way. As Army incompetence would have it, the Officer of the Day never bothered to make a physical check by going from post-to-post, up-and-down the line, doing so for 240 kilometers to see that the proper personal really existed. Usually within one’s Army that’s a gimmie. The GIs away from the signal unit, those on R &R, in Hong Kong or Bangkok, or those on their way home for good, why it was their names that were used and their assignments taken up by phantom monitors who were then occupying the listen-posts.

Before any of those substitutions took place, the bought-and-paid for specialist was corrupted by the Black Wing. The specialist was enticed by his newfound buddies back at headquarters. After providing him, “who was a mere nothing,” with such good-times, including lots of incredible drugs and “I’ll do anything for you, baby” kind of women, the Black Wing snapped the specialist back to reality.

Initially, he was too blind and stupid, not seeing through the ruse orchestrated by his newfound buddies, to figure out that eventually they would actually insist on something in return.

During those sordid times he was photographed in compromising positions, with both women and men and then blackmailed. The corrupted specialist was married with a young family, and it would be just two-more stinking weeks before the draftee was slated to go back home and forget about the war.

Soon enough he figured he’d be with mom and pop, eating apple-pie and making love to a waiting, loving wife. In the next room would be his new six-month-old bundle of joy, who he had yet to set his fatherly eyes upon.

The poor sap of a bought soldier without a clue such a savage plot blew in the wind, especially something as sinister, designed by those who seemed to be our guys. He figured a few potheads only wanted to make a routine dope deal with some mountain tribesmen, common info known amongst GIs as pretty matter of fact.

With all the “smoke” permeating around the base camp, it came from somewhere. Once the pressure was applied he worried and assumed he fell under the spell of a more-sophisticated drug ring. If there was any hint, that as a result of his actions, along with the morbid out-come, of which American brothers might have gotten hurt or die, rather than comply he would have rather died himself.

It didn’t matter if the convoy over or undershot Virgo’s mark. They’d be close enough. Once the assassin team did their tidy job, then the convoy could be quietly hi-jacked towards the pre-determined location. .

Unbeknown to the occupants of the convoy, once they were railroaded between listening-post, #59, and #62, they were out of earshot and too far from friendly listening-posts. The safety net sure was compromised; a system set up exclusively for their protection. Once misled, they would be done away with. The new owners of the military supplies replaced the dead drivers with their own contemporaries trucking the goods 18-kilometers north, under the cover of darkness, through the over-grown jungle and onto the Ho Chi Mihn Trail.

The Ho Chi Mihn trail was elusive, but in the minds of both the North Vietnamese and the Black Wing, it was as secure as Fort Knox. For 25 years the corrupt never-to-stand on-their-own-two-feet South Vietnamese Government attempted to shut down the trail. The stubborn and foolish French and the allies, while trying to hold on to their colonial powers, sapped by WWII attempted to cease operations along the jungle trail but to no avail. The Black Wing’s mission was complete.

*          *          *

Back at Major General Ware’s quarters, he and Sergeant Major Venable conjured about all the possible scenarios that could have taken place between Chu Lai and their base camp.

“It’s a god-damned mystery to me?” complained the general.

“If they got whacked surely one of the listening posts would have picked it up. Besides, Bellman and Phillips surely would have called for help. They could be lost . . . but I doubt it, especially with Bellman and Phillips at the helm.”

General Ware summoned his aide-de-camp from right outside, “What’s the latest, any news?”

He stated there still was no word and was an incredibly quiet night, he added, “Nothing is coming in over the squelch-box. The 25th Infantry Division reports nothing happening. The Marines to the east reported in their gung-ho Marine commander’s way that it was ‘damn-right dull.’”

The General excused him.

At 0600 the entire staff once-again gathered. By 0602 the tragic news arrived about the 501st Transport Company.

Searching choppers during the first sign of light spotted telltale signs. After landing they found the slit-throat remains of Major Bellman, Master Sergeant Phillips, and the others on duty in the Ops. tents. Another chopper soon found the spot where the ambush took place. The area was littered with friendly dead. Fresh truck tracks pointed north, and the tire prints were erased by a cunning enemy within a kilometer.

The bad news ballooned as devastating for the general. Over his career he had witnessed good commanders lose platoons, battalions and even brigades in battle or by natural disaster, but he had never witnessed anything the likes of the dilemma. A somber mood loomed over the general staff. The general remained poised the way all good commanders do. There was serious business at hand. The venue was set for him to show leadership and employ his skills.

“Get as many choppers out there as you can and bring our kids in!

“I don’t want those good boys bodies left out there a moment longer!

“When they return . . . send them back out to search for those trucks!

“Set up another E-frequency . . . and make sure teams exposed on those listening posts have back-up!

“Tell Saigon we’re beating the bushes!

“All active field commanders are to cease present operations and have them find those trucks!

“Make arrangements for a memorial service at 1600 hours!

“Every available soldier in this base camp will be present for the service!

“Get me the names and state-side addresses of every man in that convoy!

“Provide for me the families home telephone numbers belonging to Major Bellman and Master Sergeant Phillips!

“They deserve more than a telegram or even an emissary showing up on their door-step.

“I want an update every twenty-minutes.

“Dismissed!”

General Ware and the sergeant major stayed put at the general’s desk in the back of the command tent. They were out of earshot.

“Joe, I know I keep harping on the subject, but that god-damned Virgo bugs the shit out of me. There’s something fishy about him. I suppose my suspicions go back to the incident at the “Point.” I can’t deny the inkling I have that he’s somehow involved.

“Did I tell you that he’s a Rhodes Scholar? He’s an enigma, 26-years old, four degrees, a West Point graduate and a Captain in the United States Army. Imagine at his age. It just so happens that I’ve studied some of the accounts about other losses in our region.

“Right now the word is hush-hush. This information is new. I’ve calculated on my own, right here, when comparing the range of Virgo recent assignments, his security clearance, and the feasibility that his name has been on a “need to know” list. Here’s the sticky part, he’s a common denominator connected to three incidents such as this one, all in the Three Corp area.

“It might be a coincidence, but in each case our Captain Virgo has been privy to such information because of his privilege. I don’t know if anyone else keeping track. . . I’m sure there are a few dozen other insiders who also could be linked the same way, but as I said, Joe, there might be something here. Its got me worried! . . . Something strange overcomes me and warns me not trust the snooty bastard. Did you notice how smug he was when he issued the report, about the line and all?”

“I must say, sir, that Captain Virgo does have a particular . . . what I’d call, condescending manner about him, sir. Perhaps it’s just his up bringing . . . but you do make strong points, general.”

“Look, Joe, I want you to do me a favor, and keep it under wraps. I don’t want any brass involved, not one officer. Keep this strictly an enlisted man’s thing. You have good contacts back at Chu Lai. Have your guys get hold of the “table of organization” requirements belonging to the personnel serving in that signal company. Virgo must have had to TWIX down the listening-post assignments to A.G. . . . with the names of the signal’s personnel on it. I want the name of every man who’s supposed to be on that line, and I want to see yesterday’s and the day before’s, “day-sheet,” including the roll call . . .

“You have carte-blanche to dig to the bottom of this. Use my authority. I have a hunch, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t care to speculate.

“War is a nasty business. Remember, Joe, not one word to any officer. Use strictly old timers OK., ones you can trust with your life . . . and keep it to a minimum. We could be in big trouble, Joe . . . Christ! I never believed that I’d see the light of day when sworn-to-the-code American officers couldn’t trust one another.”

*          *          *

1st Division’s Military Intelligence was assigned a Huey-Cobra helicopter. The Cobra, a three-foot-wide, sleek, rip-roaring, fighter-helicopter with a split front section and rear cockpit, with space for only a pilot and co-pilot. Mounted up-front are two M-60, rapid-fire, machine guns; weapons capable of delivering a payload of flying steel and soberly able to devastate a column of personnel while on the move, or tear apart a thatched-roof village with a single pass-over. Tucked under its trim waist hung four air-to-air, or air-to-ground, sidewinder, heat-seeking missiles. The narrow Cobra boasts just enough room up front for the gunner, who also acts as the pilot’s spotter. Just above, and behind the gunner, sits the pilot. The helicopter is capable of performing mosquito-like, aero, acrobatic maneuvers while remaining fly-quick.

Captain Virgo, fulfilling his role as Military Intelligence Officer, maintained almost exclusive rights for the use of one of those Cobras. He, along with the rest of the 1st Infantry’s Division’s air wing, joined the expanded search for the missing convoy. While the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines scanned the entire north half of South Vietnam; other forces on both sides of the fence were busy at work.

Sergeant-Major Joseph Venable was busy contacting a trusty noncommissioned officer down in Chu Lai. He deputized and put Sergeant-Major Virgil Kozlowski, another old-war horse and long-time contemporary on the case. He spoke to him from a secure phone right after he left General Ware’s command tent. Within two hours in his possession Venable was privy to every piece of documentation the general requested. No officers down at Chu Lai, or up at the 1st Division’s base-camp, or even in Saigon, realized what was going on between the two old timers. It was an enlisted man’s thing.

The ranks of the noncommissioned officers during the Vietnam conflict were filled with different type of men than those manning the officer corps. Stemming from the ranks of the dedicated cadre of men, who wore stripes on their arms, was absent of the glaring, raw ambition that oozed from the officer corps.

Officers showed themselves as more civilian career oriented than their noncommissioned compatriots, all too obliging with all the ass kissing that went along while trying to achieve higher rank as those Army regulations insisted upon being called, ‘Sir.’

The majority of the officer corps wouldn’t achieve the elusive rank of general officer. Most planned a cushy retirement after a twenty-year term. Less would go that far. If they could resign their commission, most officers aspired for high-paying civilian jobs. The majority of the officers held college degrees; most noncoms didn’t. Non-commissioned officers’ post-Army opportunities weren’t that lucrative. A West Point graduate may not spend a full career within the military. By just rapping that West Point, graduation ring on the desk of a prospective employer, one could command a civilian salary of at least 75K a year, and that was back in 1967!

Placing the boot on the other foot, Army-life for the noncom was more of a way of life. They for the most part were dedicated toward the cause, and they chose to live the less glamorous life of a soldier. Noncoms marched, ate, drank, and during time of conflict, they lived with troops. For them it was more of a vocation. It meant much-much more in their view to serve, rather than being temporarily employed as “Christmas-help;” the pegging many NCO’s uttered when referring to the ROTC and reserve officers.

During Vietnam, while being wrapped up in the fight of its life, the Army’s ranks swelled with poorly prepared officers.

Unbeknown to a nation, their kids were being mostly led by cheerleaders, soft-handed fraternity brothers or pussy footing paper shufflers, those who recently graduated from college. Color them in as pale. They hardly knew anything about what it took while involved in mortal combat. Comparing our officers to those in the NVA, was like matching CIA. agents against Pepsi Cola cops. Our side employed the Pepsies’.

Anyone who ever went through basic training in the Army could recall the resentment shown by sergeants when recruits mistakenly called them, “sir.”

“Don’t call me, sir, boy! You call your employer, sir! Call your father, sir! You can call that sunny-boy, company commander with the goofy grin on his face and gold, cheap-plated bars on his skinny shoulders, sir! But trooper, you call me, Sergeant . . . ‘cause I work for a living, boy! You hear me, boy?”

That was the type of verbal wrath noncoms would pour down on a soon-to-know-better recruits. The rivalry stemmed from the beginning of soldiering. It may have been a professional resentment between the “order-givers” and the “order-takers.”

The Noncommissioned Officer Corps of “order-takers” maintain a pride, that’s rarely brought to the surface It’s a silent code shared exclusively amongst themselves only in a secure area. It’s a brotherhood, one of which frankly acknowledged, that since the beginning of the Army, that it is they who ”take orders,” and they who do the dirty work and carry them out; obediently and proficiently, way better than any smart-ass, college boy could ever realize, or for that matter, take orders and come hell or high water, way better than any lieutenant, captain, major or general could ever dole out.

It’s a pride. A pride, a tight-knit fraternity of men ingrained with the same spit and polish that belonged to the likes of Sergeant-Major Venable, Sergeant-Major Kozlowski, and those merits that once belonged to the then dead Master-Sergeant Reggie Phillips. It’s a pride only menches of men such as them can appreciate. There were but a handful of officers inside the Pentagon who understood such a code. General Ware steadfastly remained one of them.

Between the three of them, over the past 25-years, they witnessed a plethora “of what?”

Some of those so-called sirs initially were flushed with the right intentions, and they also aspired, yet eventually because of opportunity evolved as a mishmash of money-hungry, commercial-contractors, governmental-bureaucrats, arms-manufacture-representatives and real-estate salesmen.

The NCOs, with disdain, watched them come-and-go — running through their beloved Army like a bad case of diarrhea. Back in 1967 it was wild-card poker game that the ROTC boys desired to play out. Old sarges’ dealt straight poker with no wild cards snuck into the deck. They weren’t so thrilled yet subsided most of their apprehension about playing new, candy-assed games wanting to be played by the slick-Willies.

Instead of planning their retirement, they made a commitment and didn’t try to change or alter the ironclad rules of warriors. They just wanted to abide by them. Like Charlie they were in for the duration.

Sergeant-Major Joseph Venable examined all the documents TWIX-ED to him by Sergeant Major Kozlowski. He then held ownership of the original copy of the TWIX, sent down to Chu Lai by 1st Division’s Military Intelligence, initiated by one Captain Louis Virgo.

The TWIX fixed the location of all 120 listening-posts and what personnel were assigned to each post. He clutched onto a copy of Signal’s, A Company, 2/43rd’s, day report and roll call. He possessed the name, rank, unit and serial number of the specialist 4th class from A.G. the one who typed out the replacement orders.

The young buck, that particular specialist, was being choppered up to Division at that very moment, personally escorted by Sergeant Major Kozlowski.

He also possessed a list of names representing those soldiers from the 2/43rd, who were on leave, or who mustered out of the unit during the past week. The sergeant major matched each name with each position assignment. His old-soldier instincts led him first towards the listening-posts closest to where the remains were found.

There was something wrong! All six men assigned to those two listening-posts; #60 and #61, weren’t present that day on the company’s roll call. Like the general suspected, something was fishy. When matched up, they were either on leave or no longer with the 2/43rd.

By 1500-hours most of the searching helicopters returned to Division-One’s, base camp. Every square inch of terrain was flown over, scanned, with nothing found within their sector. Captain Virgo also returned, and readied himself to unemotionally attend the memorial service for his victims.

A TWIX waited for him!

The routine sounding message was a coded warning . . the bought-specialist from A.G. was mysteriously plucked from his office by one Sergeant Major Kozlowski and he was being ferried by helicopter toward his location!

The TWIX’s final sentence read: “ACT ACCORDINGLY.”

He quickly TWIX-ED back another message giving precise instructions, to start stirring things up!

Sergeant-Major Venable made his way to the general’s quarters. The general dismissed his aides and staff to be alone with Joe Venable. The sergeant major reported to the general what he unraveled. He told the general Sergeant Major Kozlowski was on his way up, right then, with the original documents, and riding inside the chopper with him was the specialist from A.G.

“Who else knows of this?”

“Only you, I, and Sergeant-Major Kozlowski.”

“Good, keep it that way for the time being.”

Fifteen minutes later, fifteen minutes before the scheduled memorial service, all hell broke loose along the northern frontier of South Vietnam. Reports came in from just about every forward position that there was invasive action on the line. Satellite base camps came under heavy fire. Radios squawked, “We’re under heavy attack.” The enemy probed the line. There were serious intrusions — a sure sign of an eminent attack.

The alarm sounded, and the general, and the sergeant major scooted their way out of the headquarters tent and headed for the command helicopter. Contingency plans were already being carried out.

Scurrying infantrymen, heavily armed, were boarding helicopters at a furious pace. The general, surrounded by a combat-readied staff, scanned over charts unfolded out on a field table set-up near his command ship.

After quickly being brought up to date on the enemies activities he calmly issued orders. Ware called for his field commanders to deploy various squads of attack helicopters, to get behind their lines and wreck havoc on the advancing enemy’s rear. He ordered in massive air support from the Air Force, including pulverizing bombing runs by high-flying fortresses of B-52s. He urged they should go on the offensive and take every advantage of an exposed enemy, who normally didn’t show themselves and who usually hid in the jungle. This was to be a rare opportunity perhaps, to meet the enemy from all sides. With the enemy out in the open, it should be the Big Red One who would force the issue.

Just before the general and the sergeant major boarded the command helicopter, Sergeant Major Kozlowski’s chopper skidded in, in the midst of the chaotic scene. Carrying with it, Specialist Fourth-Class Agnew, and the proof, showing that valid United States Military orders were tampered with, and individuals conspired, leading to the death of 71 U.S. soldiers and the theft of 45 truck-loads of military hardware and medical supplies.

The general halted Sergeant-Major Venable’s pace and ordered, they should hold up and wait a moment so to take along Kozlowski and the specialist. “They can ride with us in our command chopper.”

Sergeant-Major Kozlowski and the specialist, hopped off one copter then leap-frogged onto another.

The general’s helicopter carried its full contingent including the two aides, a pilot, co-pilot, two machine gunners and the 1st Division’s mascot, King. While their heavy Huey lifted off, so to command from the sky, inside the Huey’s fuselage the general began to interrogate the specialist.

Nearby, almost in the moving-shadow cast by the departing command helicopter, the devil’s face of Louis Virgo fluttered with anticipation as he spied. He too boarded a copter.

His Cobra whisked off with a fellow Black Winger, who piloted the craft. At first they aligned themselves along with the taking-off helicopters. The flying armada rushed northward with stern conviction to support their own.

Aboard the command ship, while begging for God’s forgiveness, the specialist tearfully spilled out his guts about how he typed in the bogus names assigned to the phantom listening-posts.

Sergeant-Major Kozlowski backhanded the specialist flush in the face with explosive force and went further for his neck. In turn, he needed to be restrained by Sergeant-Major Venable’s swagger stick, and a grappling grip by the general’s young aide.

“You fucking piece of shit!” screamed Kozlowski.

“Let me throw him out, general!”

“As you were, Sergeant Major!” commanded the solemn general.

The flustered sergeant major calmed after hearing his commander’s steady voice.

“We’re going to be busy up here for a while sergeant, and it’s essential that we all keep cool heads. We’ll sort all this out once we get back to base camp.”

Captain Virgo’s speedy Cobra zoomed ahead of the pack. He ordered it down atop a shaded monkey-pod plateau about twelve kilometers ahead the already air-borne, combat division. He and his pilot adequately camouflaged their Cobra and waited.

Minutes later they spotted the on-coming armada. The general’s command helicopter was easy to spot. On the fuselage its leadership insignia stood out. Virgo’s pilot placed on his shoulder a one-man missile-launcher, armed with two, air-to-air rockets. As soon as the lead copter was in range he let go. Moments after the Black Winger squeezed the trigger, two rockets tore into the fuselage.

The Huey burst into flames and the doomed craft faltered into a sickening death-spin, finally to mercifully crash onto a hillside and exploded. The accompanying helicopters seeing the hit scattered in various directions; a normal procedure to not get hit by additional fire. Louis Virgo and his pilot, confident they hadn’t been observed boarded their own Cobra, as undetected and flew low along the treetops.

Virgo’s excited voice came yelping over the air waves, snapping the other American pilots to attention, those flying high above, too busy, regrouping the formation, and too busy to see first-hand just where he was flying.

“I got a fix on them! I got a fix on them! . . .”

Virgo began calling out a sequence of map coordinates. “I’m going in again . . . to take a better look!”

The airwaves quieted for the moment and the squadron’s ears listened for more news about the rocket-man.

“Watch-it down there, Cobra, it’s probably still hot!” responded Colonel Winkler, the assistant-division commander who was whirling high over the smoking debris, even higher above the rest.

“Somebody’s got to get those bastards!” retorted the snake Virgo. His ego wanted to play it out further.

Virgo’s Cobra, by then, in full view of all, swooped low again, and delivered a volley of rocketry and none-threatening machine gun fire into the emptiness.

Then his voice spit out another set of co-ordinates, “Positive! Positive! I’ve spotted about a half-dozen dinks running like hell heading northwest! Looks to me as if they’re lugging anti-aircraft ordinance! . . .I spot a tube!”

Over the radio came Colonel Winkler’s distinctive voice, “Affirmative! Let’s go! . . . OK., we’re coming in, Cobra! . . . We’ll try and head them off at the pass! Stay on their trail.” Then he pleaded, “Be real careful, you hear!”

The colonel was compelled to ask one question . . . an answer he dreaded. “How’s the old-man’s ship look?”

The ears on thirty-three choppers waited for response, as so did the ears belonging to officers awaiting news back at headquarters.

At first only the squelching sounds from the radio made any sort of noise.

“ . . . They’re all gone, sir!” The ham in Virgo took over and he feinted his emotions, play-acting with an almost broken-down voice. “The . . . sons-of-bitches . . . took out the division CO., sir . . . ! It! . . . It doesn’t look as if! . . . It doesn’t look as if there’s any chance of survivors, sir.”

The warp-minded scum’s left hand held onto the Cobra’s microphone. With his other hand he massaged his crotch. His facial features turned even more evil, like some fiend as he monkey wrenched his other hand onto his swollen prick.

For history’s sake the mystery about the lost convoy and knowledge about why the specialist altered those personnel records and everything else went down with General Ware and the rest. Over a 100-years of combined service, patriotic dedication and military experience went down the tubes. The fireball consumed the brilliance and wisdom of General Ware. The pride courage and unwavering allegiance of Sergeant-Major Venable and Sergeant-Major Kozlowski also perished.

Those three men’s families, along with the families of the specialist, and the rest would soon enough cry their eyes out, and sense first-hand the impact dealt out by an unjust war that was being jack-hammered home. The families of the 71 other fellows — those who hooked up with the wrong convoy — would soon get additional bad news.

The mothers, fathers, siblings and close others would receive sad news about the demise of 303 American men and women who became casualties because of the contrived offensive, an offensive which was no more than a smoke-screen so to cover Virgo’s tracks.

All and all those people were no different from real nice folks and relatives and people from all over the country who on a day-to-day basis, from 1965 to 1971, received such bad tidings, It was a seven-day-a-week operation.

Eventually, over 58,000; ordinary American families . . . on ordinary-days . . . would be shocked out of the ordinary.

“Why our boys they would moan?” Perhaps the hapless nation should have demanded, “Why anybody’s boy?”

The sinister plot and its accomplices, including the murderer of the Big Red One’s command team never were detected by any other military organization. The missing convoy went on to become another grim war statistic, that would manifest itself in accounts as a mere book-keeping entry. Hardly counted, the incident was just another ache that harpooned the heart of America during the Sixties.

Captain Virgo and his pilot were awarded; Silver Stars for heroism, and for exuding extra-ordinary valor while in the face of the enemy. Their wartime files, a falsehood, showcasing inexplicit valor they supposedly flashed while trying to track down the general’s killers.

Years later in the Parisian train station the killer of General Ware waited patiently to meet with Miguel Garcia, and together they would plan to kill again, this time in Seville during the summer of 1992.

 

CHAPTER 9

 

Jose Luis’ surviving and exiled son, Luis Jose Rocio and his band of henchmen carved out an existence in the jungles on new Espania. Their voyage, their or deal, the failed mutiny, the lost glory, the shame, and the banishment, by 1493, fully-warped away any reasoning that may have once steered them during times back in Europe.

Hapless and depressed, only a dogged determination to survive permitted them to continue. The surviving pack of rats took advantage of a curious, friendly, small and isolated tribe–too bad for them.

Cutthroat tactics were employed. Soon enough they absconded everything that belonged to the naiveté natives. They settled in, inflicted pogrom on the men, then snatched the women, squattest the land and slaughtered the livestock.

For more that thirty-two years, ’til at least 1524, Luis Rocio’s band isolated themselves in the hills overlooking Fort Navidad, considered as Columbus’s first outpost, and today it is referred to as the City of Santiago, the Capital of The Dominican Republic.

Luis, heavy-handedly, reigned over his exiled and their countryless family. As misfits and malcontents they evolved as a distant, crude, mountain people. Occasionally they would sneak down to Fort Navidad and trade with the continuous onslaught that came storming in from the offing. Their own numbers burgeoned at a steady pace. Deserters, Spanish exiles and escaped criminals learned of their existence and found their way to join their ranks. They propagated their rotten lot by integrating with native females.

Luis Rocio’s mean-spirited and conniving ways doomed them to a dark existence. Tossed in for bad measure his wicked madness infested their logic. Despite his madness Jose’s son forged a solid union while instilling heavy-handed discipline along with rigid rules. He reigned with merciless hand and anyone coming under his suspicion was eliminated and then the dichotomy of it all, he doubled as the clan’s doctor. Before Luis’ own death he delivered countless babies, including 25 of his own. His so-so medical knowledge saved many from certain death. Despite the obvious hardships the clan survived.

After more-than 50 years of isolation the Rocian clan were still considered outcasts. Time erodes balance. Certain aspects of their exile lent to their advantage. Self sufficient, they explored the highlands and came to terms with the natives while despising and ignoring representatives of the Crown.

Settlements of Spanish sprouted near the shores. They in turn couldn’t be totally ignored and eventually their scouting services were in demand, contracted mostly by new clueless homesteaders Remaining notorious—new-comers needed to be extremely careful—and would have been better off to have avoided the Rocios altogether. And if dealing with the Rocios they’d better maintain a position of strength.

The Rocios earned a rancid reputation and showed no mercy while destroying the weak. On occasion they would mingle with new settlers until one of them made a play for the newcomers’ women. If they held the upper hand they’d just take the women, kill the men and enslave the children.

Runaway women from settlements broke away and found their way to the clan’s nomad camp.

Luis died in 1524, leaving power to the 31-year-old Raul, grandson of the once good doctor

In 1532 Raul ordered the clan to pack up and move. They relocated on the other side of the island—hundreds of kilometers from Fort Navidad. Raul concluded their etched out claim was worthless in the eyes of the Crown. Raul decided it be better to relocate far from the Spanish establishment. Scouts, long before scouted prime locations.

After a tormenting treacherous climb they set-up a makeshift camp on a mountain ridge, but eventually carved out an enclave around a Caribbean inlet. Today the place is referred to as Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Raul was the first Rocio born in the New World while cloned by Luis. Raul’s mountain existence was monitored carefully.

Despite their murderous ways the family practiced some of the old country’s traditions, including the sacrament of marriage. The women were afforded no say. They were thumbed under a miserable existence. The men remained hard-core.

Rather than evolving as free men they degenerated over the span of 50-years. Cruel crude and backward best described the Rocios.

By 1542, fifty years after Jose Luis’ s death the cravings for their European pasts finally subsided. The children born by exiles wondered about a modern European lifestyle. Spoken of landscapes and settings and civilization could only be imagined. The old world and its glorious past were missed out on. Yearned for so often by elders were sights to soothe tired eyes, lip smacking flavors no longer available to taste, spoken of aromas that wouldn’t waft and textures impossible to sense. They salivated at the mention of Andalusian grown olives.

Feeling as if cursed and perhaps using the old adage about love as an analogy, the second generation’s envious mindset may have been: ‘To lose at love is better than never knowing love at all.’ Sensations forever beyond their grasp in both space and time added to the mental anguish.

Compared to their fix they were convinced they were missing out on a comfy existence Such a loss was rehashed often and spoken about constantly. Every child was subject to descriptive stories depicting situations they weren’t accustomed to with infrequent interludes describing warmth and beauty and the missed out contentment of a long ago stability, along with miserable thoughts about t losing out of almost everything else they longed for.

With such anguish, those with wonder suffered from deprivation. It gnawed, and it gnawed and gnawed.

Certain lore was kept alive. First and foremost etched into them was the deep-rooted hatred and bitterness towards the land of their ancestors. Branded into each Rocian mind, the truth about Jose Luis, how it was his farsightedness and not Columbus’ that opened up the new world.

Surviving the bludgeoning of their past culture remained the poignant story about the Virgin of El Rocio. The Thugee band held into a sense of righteousness associating themselves with the maiden. Her long-past sacrifice became an intricate spoke in the Rocios’ wheel, always fresh in their minds as noble merits that might need to be called upon if they ever were to come full circle. That story served as the sole heart-warming metaphor passed on by the Rocios.

Back when first exiled by Columbus, Luis’s memory brought back some of the remedies that remembered from his boyhood when he displayed so-so interest in doctoring while accompanying his father.

A combination of healing herbs provided by the natives, along with fuzzy memories pertaining to the practice shown by his good-doctor father became the water-shed of Rocio medical know-how. Those two properties were the first kernels of accumulative knowledge that would eventually sprout and send forth a line of brilliant but crazy surgeons. He passed down the practice onto his son Raul. He tinkered and added skills with his own brand and crude refinement. In time and turn they’d be handed down further, to Ricardo, Raul’s son, and on and then on.

A tainted lineage retained the not-so-delicate touch and sprinkled in with perhaps the most-uncaring bedside manners. A Rocio with a scapel in hand possessed but one desire, to cut, to cut deep. Those gone-crazy genes continued a blood-stained trip down their genetic line.

This or that didn’t stop healing or repair. Without delay or compassion they’d stop the bleeding regardless of the means. With the first glimpse of infection they’d brutally cleared away the puss, and then get to the meat of the matter to unsympathetically have their patients bear the pain. They reconnected broken bones with the touch of pipe fitters.

Generations latter they attributed the passed-on science as the winning edge, crediting of such for saving their existence. While many others in the New World withered, and fell victim to the elements they grew stronger.

The early butchering and bloodletting gradually became refined. During the first generation the women weren’t immune to germs and strains carried over from Europe. It was mostly the women who fell ill during those early years. They were constantly abused, thought of strictly as baby-makers, hut-keepers and meal preparers.

When they became ill and while on the brink, brutal, grisly operations took place. During those terrifying instances, operational techniques were primarily made up of trial and error. Accounts of the too-real clinics were the first, bloodstained pages inserted within the initial chapters of the family’s medical journal. It was the only book kept.

However, the Rocios introduced cool-handed, surgical breakthroughs during their 500-year existence in Haiti. As the years passed the island of Espania grew. Obligated by the teachings of his father, Raul continued to fester hate and everything representing the glory of Spain.

Espania provided the Rocios no real place to hide. The Spanish dominated back by many more men, many more horses and many guns. Raul changed his father’s old methods and calmed somewhat, the outward, blatant, rebellious nature of the clan. By the time of old Raul’s death in 1554, the Rocios were beating the system rather than fighting it. Still considered as outcasts, but the stance against them softened and they were at least tolerated. After 62 years the Spanish inhabited just a small portion of the good-sized island.

Sixty-two years after his death at sea, Jose Luis’s cunning grandson Raul changed the family’s identity, changing the family’s surname from Rocio to Virgo.

Raul, when near death, envisioned a time when the possibility might present itself, whereas members of the clan might be able to return to Spain and perhaps even visit El Rocio!

Admiral aspects reserved for the once-respected Rocio name were dumped overboard with the good doctor. Passage under the name of Rocio was impossible. Rocio became known as an imposing-dark name, mired in the muck of the new spanking world. The name Rocio was buried along with Raul. With the test of time and after three generations the expansive family learned how to play ball.

While alive Raul too was enchanted by the story of the Virgin of El Rocio and he too kept alive a link between the clan and the story of Julia. Raul commanded, that after his death, all Rocios would change their surname forever and instead be referred to as the Virgos, a new beginning, a new title and to stamp out a special reference towards the virgin. As time passed, for one to be introduced as a Virgo, rather than a Rocio, in the eyes of another gentleman on Hispaniola, meant that it met a much friendlier response than if one was introduced as a Rocio, an association that was associated with, deceiving, manipulation, enslavement and death.

Still though, in their own sleazy way the cockroach Virgos began to crawl out from crevices. They began to weave themselves within the fabric of Sixteenth Century America. The Virgos continued to scrape out their own self-sufficient existence, scheming to create new ways to beat the system. They were shrewd bastards.

They towed the line, snatched wealth and power and continued to do so for generations, right up to Louis Virgo’s time, ala; their latest, Twentieth, Century model.

By the mid Sixteen Hundreds the Virgos had long shed the skins of the Rocios. For a clan once exiled, hunted down like dogs, scorned and blacklisted, it was they who then wheeled the real power in Port-au-Prince.

When a salivating opportunity presented itself to rid Haiti of the hated Spanish, the Virgos enthusiastically, and without reservations, sided with the invading French and joined in on the rampaging and killing of their own Spanish brothers.

Their new, for-the-time-being, French allies, grateful for their timely allegiance, provided them with more influence. For the first instance in the New World they became part of the nouveau mainstream, and united as a jointed family.

Under the leadership of Adolfo Virgo, they were well on their way, along with the remnants of the aristocratic Spanish, Dutch, English, Portuguese and French, to become elite imperial colonist.

Because they were opportunistic the Virgos attained vast tracks of land granted by the new lords of Haiti. They then purchased rather than abscond additional slaves, so to tend the sugar-cane fields and coffee plantations. Their bounty for selling out the Spanish paid handsomely, and the precipitation once associated with their vile past evaporated.

Once again, as they demonstrated before, without the slightest thought of loyalty, they would eventually turned against their French allies. Turn coating, they ridded themselves of the French, who by then were much loathed.

In 1804 Virgo wealth financed and backed an ambitious idealistic slave, named Touissaint L’Ouvertue. They matched his courage, joining it with their graft and corruption and gained for Haiti what some fools mistook for independence.

After the revolution it was apparent that without viable challenge the Virgos were perceived as very-serious people not to be toyed with. They elevated themselves with titles such as barons, but were more like powerful parasites who sucked dry all resources, maintaining a strangle hold on a weak, scared-shitless society.

Mere nobodies and others with no choice trembled in fear and paid homage, realizing it was much wiser and healthier to capitulate. If there were malcontents they’d be sure to be crushed, Self entwined in every worthwhile aspect of Haitian society they consolidated the family’s riches. Their sphere of bend-your-arm influence; rather it be financial . . . medical . . . or political . . . soon spread throughout the Caribbean region.

Certain refinements and protocol surfaced. Still, a wilderness lingered and remained apparent. Rushing through their vile veins was a maniacal mixed blood. Despite a premeditated intent by then patriarch, Pepe Virgo, to tone down the scale of their uncouthness, and despite contemporary education while operating a fiefdom they remained the epitome of bad manners. After years of banishment and isolation with the attainment of incredible wealth and absolute power the past urges to mix socially subsided. With resentment and contempt for their fellow man they kept mostly to themselves.

By the Nineteenth Century disinterested expansionist from a place called the United States made an acquaintance and pact with one Juan Luis Jose Virgo.

Juan Virgo the heir apparent to the Virgo fortunes and reigns of leadership was off and away from his Haitian home. He then was a resident physician practicing in Cuba, performing medical procedures inside and around a Havana hospital.

Because of profession and wealth he’d never be suspected as being a terrorist. It was the young physician Juan Virgo who clandestinely snuck aboard the USS. Maine, while it was snugly anchored in Havana’s harbor, and in the wee-early hours during a February morning during the year 1898; it was the young doctor who brazenly packed explosives into her bow, and it was he who lit the match that viciously blew to pieces the American warship in all directions.

Certain expansion-minded American politicians, licked their chops, then fixed and feasted an emerging-nation’s hungry eyes on some of Spain’s few remaining jewels.

A worldwide, take-what-you-can-get-away-with treasure hunt was in full swing. Gems left over from the glory days lay defenseless. Spain’s garrisons were too weak to stand up and hold onto their colonies against the new breed of North and South Americans.

Filled with righteous rage, patriots of the New World were strengthened by the home cooking of the Western Hemisphere. Since its heyday, Spain lost the determination essential to keep all in the fold. It loosely clutched onto its few remaining assets. Its clenched fist and hard hands went soft. The once proud nation’s belly no longer churned out the grit it takes for staying power. Once powerful Spain then was reduced to a weakling. Spain by then was a fading powerhouse no longer a viable match for anybody, even if it were to take place on neutral turf. At the time of the Maine incident, all but two of Spain’s South American colonies revolted or at least won independence. Therefore, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba were all that were leftover from earlier triumphant conquests. They lay ripe for the picking.

The American people as a nation were still recovering from the grief of the Civil War. U.S. politicians were keenly aware the American people wouldn’t sanction their government gallivanting into other places and losing more boys for the purpose of attaining more territory. The Wild West hadn’t yet been won and even Seward’s folly hadn’t been probed or tinkered with.

But the American people might back up a military action; if there was something in their own fair eyes that appeared as justified, as long as the action was conclusive, just and swift. When the Maine splattered itself over the harbor’s waters, then taking down with it 260 innocent American lives — American public opinion polls insisted revenge have its day. Sensationalists such as William Randolph Hearst, along with other newspaper magnets began to clamor for war. Headlines flashed across the front pages of newspapers in Washington, New York, San Francisco and Honolulu: They Sunk the Maine! To Hell with Spain! So began the saga about Teddy Roosevelt supposedly charging up San Juan Hill.

The American people bought and swallowed the accounts of the horrendous act perpetrated against 260 of their countrymen. America snatched what was offered off the sordid table, with the nation hardly paying for such a bargain. Three good-sized pieces of the poisoned pies were then gobbled up by a hungry America, with ferocious appetite to wolf it all down.

The muck was a witch’s brew, cleverly disguised as righteous indignation and the spoils included the remainder of once belonged to Spain. They were presented on a silver-platter, compliments of the Virgos.

Juan’s terrorist act further avenged the thirteen generations who fanatically held themselves dead-set against Spain. In addition, the bad eggs gained much-desired and quick recognition and then hatched a sought-after alliance, nestling themselves with their new friends in the form of Yankee co-conspirators.

Same as his predecessors, Juan inherited the sharp Virgo intellect, and he was astute enough to be aware that the United States was making obvious moves as a developing nation about to become a worldwide power. He chose to align the family with that power. To the discredit of the family, he kept up the family’s vile temperament, and inherited the no-scruples, cunning ruthlessness going back as far as Luis Jose, his eleven, times, ago grandfather.

Because of his murderous act the family was granted large tracks of land near Ocala Florida. The land, a swamp, stolen by the American Government from the Seminoles turned out to be a cheap payoff for such a daring feat. The Virgos set-up residences in Florida.

Juan trail blazed the Virgos into a new era. In a sensible manner, similar to the ways of his distant good doctor grandfather, he began to travel in circles of power.

A question could be asked, would the vile, crazy, mutineer Luis Jose be impressed at how far his bad-seeded off spring had evolved?

Juan steered the Virgos back into the mainstream. Regardless, if their history could have been chronicled it would be mostly scrawled with the tales of greed, instances describing words of hate, and the misappropriations manifested by terribly twisted wits of the Virgos, chronicled more so as woeful saga up to that point. The wildest was yet to come.

Juan Carlos Virgo, duked out in his Nineteenth Century tuxedo, hobnobbed with the magnets and financial barons of the day. The Vanderbilts, Fords, Carnegees and Rockefellers were his American patrons. Once coming to grips, Juan clearly understood that the important profitable decisions of the day, were brought or bought into vogue behind the closed doors of the smoke-filled rooms of Washington, London or Paris. Juan witnesses such methods by then first hand decided to amend some of the Virgo doctrine.

Paying attention to the new ways Juan consolidated the family’s methods. He instilled the policy; to stay-put in the background. “Don’t seek office . . . Seek power . . . Don’t be a public servant . . . Be a servant only to yourself. . . Provide only for yours! . . . Let someone else take the risks, and the heat and if they were to fail . . . jump ship, shatter alliances, and join forces with the in-coming power.”

His ties expanded and soon he spiraled further up-ward. By 1910 he and his family became naturalized American citizens. Still though, not abandoning their rotten roots, they spent a good deal of time in Port-au-Prince. When the sudden and sharp turn of events presented a shaky situation in 1915; when the peoples of the Haitian nation were seriously considering taking back what the Virgos long-before stole, it was the fearful Virgos who called for U.S. intervention.

While the U. S. Army occupied Haiti, from 1915 until 1934, the Virgo patriarch Juan, fit his first son into a U.S. Army uniform; right after his medical training. The aging Virgo felt such as ascension, in order to hold onto what he believed was theirs. By placing his successor within the elite ranks of a new ally, Juan sought to insure the clan’s existence in the USA and Haiti.

Four years later, Sebastion-Carlos-Jose-Luis Virgo graduated from the West Point Military Academy, commissioned as an officer and a gentleman in the U.S. Army. The heir to the Virgo fortune was to be stationed within his family’s home base in Haiti.

Life for the young 2nd Lt. was a lark. Twentieth-century western education polished Sebastion with some niceties, not normal for them. Other Virgos had yet to display manners. He took to military life and became at ease in the service, recognized as a popular and capable officer who carried out his duties in a professional manner.

By 1922 World War I was over for almost four years. The American Army brought into its ranks different types of peoples than the pre-war Army was accustomed to. Blacks, Hispanics, Eastern-Europeans, Hawaiians, people of color and spice began to pepper the establishment’s “whiter than salt,” officer corps.

Sebastion Virgo show cased a Caucasian complexion. He was obviously fluent in Spanish, but he also spoke an enunciated, perfect-sounding English, with absolutely no trace of his Hispanic roots. That was a rarity during those times.

While stationed in Haiti Sebastion witnessed the unfairness brought on by bigoted officers, towards qualified officers of different persuasions. He was advised by his family not to make waves; his time would come.

A particular Major—a Major Glick constantly harassed one of Virgo’s contemporaries. The target of the Major’s wickedness was one 2nd Lt. Fernando Rives. Major Glick presented a sloppy self as a stogy smoking, repugnant, Military Policeman. The young man was constantly hassled by the major. Rives was also Latino, who also flashed strong Caucasian features similar to Sebastion’s.

Fernando derived from a long-settled, California family. Major Glick seemed to take pleasure twisting Lt. Fernando Rives mind. The major became frustrated, perhaps because of the language barrier. He detested how Rives could communicate with the locals. It peeved the major to rely on the Hispanic to act as his interpreter during their joint military duty. Hardly any actions by Rives pleased Major Glick. The major bombarded slurs towards locals, including, additional and distinct demeanors into the direction of the officer and gentleman, Lt. Fernando Rives.

While the nasty major remained insensitive Rives made a yeoman’s effort to shield local subjects from the major’s cutting insults and cruelness. The fledgling 2nd lt. deleted the slurs and did not translate them to Spanish or French. The major sensed Rives standing him up in front of the Spanish speaking and accused him of shielding the Latinos from Glick’s deep-cutting wrath.

Being single and handsome in a place like Haiti, and having a friend such as Sebastion Virgo, who was a hometown boy with social contacts made life easier while off-base for the mannerly Rives. Lt. Rives palled around with Virgo. Sometimes he himself would get lost in Port-au-Prince without Sebastion and mingle on his own. In certain barrios, because of his relationship with the Virgos, he was elevated to mini-celebrity status. His contemporary, Sebastion Virgo remained exempt from harassment.

The young 2nd Lt. met a Port-au-Prince girl, and sometimes she would come to his bachelor quarters. There were no Army rules against such visits. One night, when it was too hot and too humid to be inside, the local-girl and the young 2nd lt. smooched on a porch. The moon’s light cast the shadows of a twosome embraced.

The standing couple’s shadows danced atop the surface of a full water barrel making the water appear darker and cooler on that hot night. Now and then without breaking their embrace they would reach out and pour the water over their heads and dunk them in the water as to cool off.

Their shadowy image moving on the porches wall triggered the curiosity of the intoxicated Major Glick, who was zig-zagging back to the officers bachelor quarters. Recognizing what those shadows implied, but not sure whom they belonged to, Major Glick came chugging around the corner and startled them both.

He stopped and sized up the two lovers.

“Well . . . well! What have we here? Seems like it’s a little, slutty, hot tamale, with her spickee boy friend? . . . Huh! . . . What’s the matter with you, boy? You wanna to catch something from that half-nigger, half-spick whore?”

The girl clung to Fernando, afraid of the drunken man. Fernando restrained himself and stopped from going after the major, taking into account of the obvious repercussions. The major sensed Rives anger and he hissed, and then pulled from his holster, a 45-caliber, side arm.

“Thinking about being a hero in front the little cunt, Lieutenant?”

The major recklessly waived and then raised the level of the gun. He roughly, pressed the barrel of the revolver under Fernando’s chin.

“Whatsamadda . . . sore?

“Let me give you a little something to be sore about!”

The major then lustfully laid his gin-soaked eyeballs on the pretty girl. “Oooh! . . . I bet you’re a hot one . . .

“Now tell that little bitch to get down, and suck your Commanding Officer’s cock . . . Do it god damn it! . . . If you don’t you just might not wake up tomorrow!”

Fernando pleaded with the major to grasp onto his senses, and further pleaded . . . that the girl was a good girl, and she wasn’t a slut as implied, and he recently been seriously thinking about making the girl his wife, and wrote to his family in California to open up some discussions about such an idea!

“I could give a fiddlers-fuck about your god-damned, spick family you dumb-son-of-a-bitch . . . Now you had better get her down on her fucking knees, ya hear . . .Tell her in Spick to start wrapping her nigger-fucking-lips around the head of the Little Major. . . and I mean Pronto!”

By then the mannerly 2nd lt. was almost in-tears. The terror-stricken girl still clung to him.

The major violently grabbed at the girl’s hair with his free hand and then spit-out in bad Spanish what he wanted her to do, or he was going to blow her lover boy’s head off! She was sobbing uncontrollably. The young people were in a difficult situation.

A sorry sight ensued.

Never to be erased anger filled the helpless young man who was helplessly pinned up against the wall. He was petrified understanding damn right well, that the drunken major was crazy enough to pull the trigger. He was nailed there with the barrel of a 45-caliber pressed hard, up against his chin.

Breathing heavy from behind the 45 a hot, muggy Major Glick’s fat-man’s sweating body pressed hard up against the slender 2nd lieutenant. Major Glick’s bad breath—a putrid combination of tooth-decay and cigar-saliva—-all liquor-soaked with gin blew its polluted fumes onto Fernando’s face.

Worse was yet to come, as the major’s revolting grunting sounds broke the silence of the night. The major’s rapid-paced breathing increased with every bob of the head. With his free hand pressed hard behind her neck he increased the pressure prompting her to keep on doing it or else. Major Glick’s uncircumcised “tuna can” like cock jammed itself into the poor girl’s trembling mouth. In the midst of his moment of ecstasy he pulled out, desecrating the girl’s angelic face with a foaming ejaculation.

The girl and Lt. Rives sobbed while the major made noises to himself, and whispered things that were unintelligible.

The vile major then tried to re-enter the girl’s mouth, perhaps becoming further aroused by the awfulness. Being too much for her to bear and no longer caring about circumstances, she broke loose and ran away. The major’s waves of passion subsided. He lost his edge and wasn’t in any condition to keep the girl under his control. He let her go. Still though, the major plastered his cruel bigoted body, along with the nose of the 45 up against Fernando’s chin. His Edward G. Robinson-like twisted lips formed a vulgar smile.

“Oh, did I get something that you haven’t, boy? . . . Rives, you dumb son-of-a-bitch! You don’t have to marry the bitches to get your dick sucked! . . . All you need is a 45, si.”

Sebastion Virgo, as soon as he turned the corner, stumbled upon the sick scene, and shockingly summed-up the situation. He stopped, watched, and took in the scene. He never expected to witness such a sight.

The major, sure of having Fernando under his control, for the first time let down the weapon and placed it into his holster.

Just then, from behind . . . Sebastion Virgo wrapped his own arms around the surprised major’s chest . . . pinning his arms as helpless to his sides.

Fernando joined in on the assault. The major struggled. His sapped strength was no match against their young sense of righteousness and rage. Before a chance to call out for help, the two lieutenants up-ended the fat major, and put him headfirst into the near-by water barrel. The bubbles rose from the water, a for-sure sign that the major’s lungs were flooding. Gasps of final breaths abandoned an expiring body. Those last breathes surfaced as bubbles, and popped as homicidal evidence that vanished into the Haitian night – evidence that escaped into the thick, humid, Caribbean air and into dark secret jungles. Evidence unlikely to ever indict two young men responsible for the execution.

Such an act, if found out, could have gotten them both shot by a firing squad. The risk and effect by then became a moot point. The two men instead took their chances and became judge jury and executioner, exercising instant justice in the form of a summary execution. Major Glick was just of so many who fatally fell into the path of the Virgos.

The two men condoned the murderous deed. The joining of two pairs of black eyes inked a new contract. Right there, while holding down the struggling scum, they formed what would soon become thereafter, and be known amongst themselves as the notorious Black Wing.

It could be noted that Lt. Sebastion Virgo unlike his yet to be born son; Louis, would not have an erection in his pants.

Sebastion Virgo and Lieutenant Rives corroborated their story. They testified during an inquiry that they found the inebriated major upside-down in a water barrel. A military tribunal matched and aligned the well-connected Virgo name, and summed that the dead major on a hot Caribbean night while seeking a drink to cool himself fell into the barrel, perhaps hit his head, knocked himself unconscious and drowned. Two, young, outstanding, United, States military officers, one a West Point graduate, the other with an impeccable record would substantiate such a report about the death of an under-achieving officer with the reputation of a drunk.

Virgo and Rives formed a bond and went on to try and protect others having difficulty with bigoted authority. The organization employed their vengeful nature into other peoples’ nightmares.

Time and time again they resorted to murder and extortion, making their means justify the end. As the Army expanded the Black Wing brought into its ranks a wider scale of and a more hybrid membership. As the organization expanded the two founders never blinked at the idea of converting their altruisms to barbarisms abandoning any righteousness that they may have once had. Only those with talent; those who survived a long washing-out process and only after being heavily scrutinized, then cultivated, and after being carefully looked over it was that then those hand-picked recruits gained acceptance, only after losing their homicidal cherry by murdering their way into their dark ranks.

After 450-years in America, the Rocio-Virgos cleared the jungle, and clawed their way back up into high society. Still though, maybe more define — generation after generation and inside each mutant seed was implanted from the previous generation the deep-rooted hatred for Spain. Their other platform of self-serving savagery; “all-for-us-and nothing-for-them doctrine” kept the family on a helter-skelter keel. The Rocio-Virgo clan expanded their influence at their own pace, in any direction they desired and did so shortly after the Columbus mutiny went awry.

Generation after generation of Virgo children became better educated. In addition, time and time again, during each generation so far, a special Virgo would come along, one that would further enrich them and take them to a higher plateau. Born to Sebastion in early January of 1942 was Louis, who would later carry the Virgo torch and represent a family with little or no scruples while t killing their way to respectability, always maintaining a unified philosophy: “us-against-them.”

On July 25th 1992 the age of discovery would come full circle. In Seville, five hundred years since Vespucci, Rocio and Columbus met, Louis Virgo and Miguel Garcia would put into action their distorted dream. It all would fester to an ugly head.

The Rocian-Virgo accent took half a millennium but by 1992 Louis Virgo; son of Sebastion, grand-son of Juan’s, distant child of some of those named; Adolfo, Ricardo, Pepe, Raul and Luis, all the off-shoots that initially came from the good-doctor and the mad man, Luis, stood the latest edition. The present Louis Virgo had July 25th, St. James Day, circled in black inside his mental calendar.

 

CHAPTER 10

 

Bright and early Luke Warm boarded TWA’s morning bird from San Francisco heading towards New York’s Kennedy. Once there he re-boarded another Boeing 747, with passport in hand and headed further east for Madrid.

By dawn the next day the 747 approached Madrid.

Once on the ground the reality and magnitude of it all slammed home. All around him people were conversing. He hadn’t a clue what they were saying. Men in uniforms shouted instructions to passengers. He followed the pack, paying vigilant attention desiring to hear a fellow American repeat, in English, what’s been said — he wasn’t prepared! He remained tongue-tied while clearing customs.

They just hammered-down and stamped his passport and visa, and moved him on. After being processed past more customs, failing to communicate with airport personnel understandable instructions about using the telephone, timetables, gate locations or taxi stands, Luke felt dwarfed by the enormity of it all.

Everything was in Spanish!

He exchanged $500 of U.S. money back at Kennedy. In his pockets he carried different-colored currency and odd-sized coins. Finding a telephone was easy, but with different size coins. The phone’s instructions were printed in Spanish. . . . Was calling from Madrid to Seville was a toll call? He dreaded a Spanish telephone operator. He couldn’t differentiate the coins in his pocket. He stamped words into his electronic translator. He tried to memorize a few and rehearsed in his head, putting them in some sort of sequence. It was impossible.

He would just try and call Harry. Luke took a shot and dropped a gold colored cien in the slot. He listened, his ear picked-up on some unfamiliar noises. He heard a funny sounding ring.

“Hello,” answered a still, sleepy-voiced Harry.

Relieved, “Harry, it’s Luke . . . I’m here in Madrid.”

“Oh Luke! . . . yeah . . . Oh, Luke, Jesus! . . . So you’re here. . . What time is it anyway? What time’s? . . . What time’s your connecting flight?”

“It’s at 9:45 . . .”

Not waiting for any answers, “Look, Luke, just get to Seville take a taxi to the warehouse.”

“Eh, Harry, wait a minute. I don’t even know how to tell a taxi driver where to go! What am I supposed to say, ‘Hey, amigo, take me to Harry’s warehouse?’ Can’t you have somebody pick me up?”

“Look, Luke, it should be no problema! Just show the taxi driver my business card. You still got one? Remember I gave you one back on Maui?”

Luke shuffled through his waist pack and plucked form it the his address book, and inside he found the tattered business card with scribbling all over it. Before he could confirm he possessed the card the phone went dead. He waited a moment and then dug for another cien and called back. He considered for a moment if that plane sitting outside on the tarmac was due to go back to the U.S.A. — maybe he should be on it.

“It doesn’t take long for them to eat up your money over here.” Harry answered the phone with those words, anticipating that it was Luke calling back.

“Did you find the card?”

“Yeah,” answered an unsure Luke.

Luke boarded his connecting flight and landed in sunny Seville about 11:00 a.m. It was overcast. Luke’s stomach went queasy.

All of his life Luke prided himself at being able to communicate. Speaking to people was his strong suit. In the past it never mattered if the subjects of his inquiries were the powerful or weak, rich or poor, intelligent or fools, at least they understood English. When it came to verbal communications Luke was diversified, able to stoop to slang, or elevate to proper articulation, a matter of rolling with the punches and swimming with the fishes in the sea, and eventually work it all out to his advantage. Right then though, and unfortunate for him, his vocabulary consisted of a few words: si, and no, and no entiendo.

He’d use the latter, no entiendo, countless times during his new life, while being indoctrinated on the Iberian Peninsula. Inside Spain for only a few hours Luke was addressing situation after situation where he was stifled and checkmated when it came to asking for something. He too was peppered with inquiries from custom people, airport personnel and other wayward travelers them seeking directions or information. All that Luke uttered was “No intiendo this and no intiendo that, no intiendo anything!”

He became hesitant about asking anybody, anything. Instead, he gathered up his luggage and went outside the terminal. He plopped himself into the back of the diesel-engine taxi, inhaled a deep-breath and handed the driver the business card.

     “Si,” the driver said, with confidence as he pulled away from the airport’s curb. Luke fixed his eyes out the side window. Both sides of the highway were plastered with signs — more foreign words. Somewhat comforting was a graffiti-scared schoolyard wall. Motherfucker was scrolled across the wall. A folksy connection at least for Luke, indicating there were others in Seville who understood English. The driver ignoring the graffiti pointed towards the opposite direction, across the river, and said, “Expo!”

Luke’s taxi traveled on; outside his window, across sparkling new, cable-supported bridges spanning the Guadalquivir River sprouted up a unique skyline. A field of flagpoles standing tall waved the colors of the world’s nations. The expansive plaza welcomed new comers to the site crammed with ultra modern structures. Golden rays reflected off the Islamic domes belonging to Arabic pavilions. Here and there were gigantic-synthetic canapés checkering the expansive tract of land that was Expo’s site. A moving monorail could be spotted on the perimeter of the site.

They continued pass the site and continued onward toward Harry’s warehouse. Slowed by a traffic jam they inched their way into a bottleneck, and began to merge to the left so to squeezed through. At the center of the jam Luke viewed the flashing police lights with curiosity. An armada of police cars littered the highway. The Jeeps and other assortments of police vehicles boasted decals in Spanish, green letters something spelled out; Guardia civil.

Luke’s uneasy eyes counted five men. They lay face down, on the asphalt, with their arms handcuffed behind their backs. A troop, ready for action, including machine-gun-toting men in paramilitary uniforms stood over them.

Luke’s cab came to a halt directly in front of the scene. At that moment the Guardia civil were undoing the handcuffs and bringing the terror-stricken men to their feet. While stopped, Luke witnessed a man who appeared as the police leader speaking to the quintet as they arose. Smiles broke out on both sides and consolatory gestures were visible. The terrorist patrol shook hands with their countrymen and casually continued to talk story all but ignoring the backed-up traffic. No one dared to honk horns. Evidently there was some sort of mistaken identity but fortunately for the five men all was OK.

The dreaded Guardia civil were once Generalissimo Franco’s handpicked Gestapo. Only a few years before, an unfriendly encounter could have dictated one being thrown up against the nearest wall and summararily shot—guilty or innocent. Luke wasn’t much of an historian, rarely concerning himself with political matters.

Under King Juan Carlos and President Felipe Gonzalez, Spain was a much freer country to live in during 1992 than during the late ‘30s. Spain and its people were experiencing new freedoms, freedoms that Spaniards never knew.

Elstupido,” the cab driver said in a low hushed tone. Luke said nothing.

Twelve hundred pesetas translated into the equivalent of a $12 dollar cab ride from the airport to the warehouse. One easy thing about Spain so far was that the money was relatively the same denominations as American.

Harry Gross’s warehouse was located in a Seville industrial suburb called Camas. What served as a warehouse, in all actually was a row of garages on a dead-end street.

The six or seven garages faced a litter-strewn but otherwise barren lot. Its straggly turf was charred in spots with burnt-out piles of ashes from trash-burning bonfires that dotted the terrain here and there. The hard-like clay opened itself up with cracks and crevices as spring’s sprouting weeds broke through. A weather-beaten, net-less, soccer goal sat unprotected, “teeter tottering” while waiting for school to be let out. The goal’s flimsy wooden frame, with its peeling paint, more than likely wouldn’t hold up under the weight of a fresh-coat. A few roosters, chickens and frisky dogs reigned over the barren landscape, that’s until the kids got home. While nervously looking over their shoulders the animals searched for a scrap of anything, while they continuously rummaged and foraged over the lot’s already gone-over nothingness.

Luke placed on Vaurnet’s with scratched lenses. The sidewalk was crammed with beat-up trucks atop the worn down curb. The jalopies stood out with garish emblems plastered all over them. World Wide Foods Inc. was the name of Harry’s operation. Its logo: A green and yellow Cobra, rear tale curled and poised for attack. The logo’s perimeter: A thick, black, crooked, non-proportioned circle. Luke panned a line up of closed-tight garage doors all donning the same garish decals.

Once inside Luke found the World Wide Foods warehouse unglamorous and dirty. Tired looking disinterested workers zombied from one office to another. Stacks of cardboard boxes were everywhere. Luke overheard an older man speaking in English. He strode up to him and began to introduce himself. “Hi I’m Luke . . .

The man turned away and hadn’t bothered to listen and crassly barked, “No hablo Espaniol.”

“I’m American!” insisted Luke, annoyed at the man’s rudeness.

“Oh,” mumbled the still disinterested man. “Who are you?”

“I’m Luke,” not bothering with the Warm. “I’m Harry’s friend from Hawaii. I just got in.”

Still, without any schmooze, “Harry’s not in right now. You should see Gloria . . . She’s his assistant. She’s in the office.” The man unenthusiastically pointed towards a closed door, one boasting more of the snake-like logos.

Luke didn’t bother to say thanks. Instead he headed toward the office, politely tapped on the closed door, then timidly stepped inside. Inside he found a nice-looking girl sitting at a desk. She was peering into the screen of a much-used Macintosh, all while smacking a wad of gum.

She broke her concentration and gave her attention to Luke. Luke spoke first so to indicate that he spoke English. She then introduced herself.

“Welcome to Seville,” she said. “Did the flight go OK and all?”

“Thanks Gloria, it was quite a schlepp.”

“Harry’s not in yet. I really don’t know when to expect him. He comes and goes. Mostly everyones on site. We have two restaurants already opened, and the other seven are still under construction.”

Luke somewhat surprised said, “I thought Harry had over 20 going?”

“You’ll find Harry says lots of things, but there’s only nine. Believe me, I oughta know It seems I’ve been sentenced here for a year now.”

Luke brushed off the fact that there were just nine restaurants, and went on to ask about the operation.

“How are things going?”

“It’s hectic as usual. You’ll soon find all that out for yourself.”

“How’s the spirit,” queried Luke.

“Not too good right now. Nobody’s been paid for over a month, and a lot of people are fed up.”

Gloria didn’t put on. She went on to fill Luke in on some of the problems that the company was facing. She told of how the Spanish were making it tough on them. Seems Harry burned a few bridges over the past two years, and the Spanish weren’t standing for anymore of his rule breaking.

Luke told Gloria about the taxi’s encounter with the road block, and the Spanish seemed to him as if they could play it pretty tough.

“Oh, that’s standard operating procedure over here. The Spanish are crazy about terrorist. There’s all kind of security. Especially at the fair’s gates, and you’ll need special credentials just to get on site.

“Here, you had better start filling out this paperwork so we can apply for your blue card. You’ll need it before you start work. Once you receive your blue card from the government, then we can apply for your Expo I.D., so we can get you on site. Do you know what you are going to be doing?”

“No, not really. Harry just said he needed my help.”

“Sounds familiar.”

“How do you mean?”

“Harry gives everybody the same spiel. We have foreigners showing up everyday. Most of the jobs are taken. And we’re not sure if we are going to get any more approvals from the Spanish regarding foreign workers. The Spanish aren’t too happy about all the foreigners coming over here . . . taking jobs that they want for their own.”

“Well, hasn’t Harry already hired 2,000 of them?”

“It’s more like 700. Did Harry tell you 2,000? Sounds like Harry. Actually Harry’s son, Gary, and his college buddy, Brady, run the show . . . they’re the main honchos. Gary is the Director of Operations and Brady is the Chief of Personnel.”

Luke ignored the titles. “How long do you think it will take before I’m fully approved?”

“I don’t know for sure. Anywhere from one to two months.”

“One or two months! “

Luke started to do some fast arithmetic, that there could be a month out of work and another month before he’d get paid. Why he could be in trouble! He wasn’t so sure how he’d be able to stretch his finances.

Luke filled out some paper work and then asked about the company apartment. He was bushed and wanted to rest.

“Did Harry tell you that you could stay at the company apartment? . . . I should let you know that it’s a little crowded right now, but I figure we can squeeze in one more. You’ll have to share a room for now with some other people, two Canadian girls and three other guys.”

“I’ll have somebody drive you over to the apartment in a little while. I’ll tell Harry when he calls in, that you’re here.”

“What about Johnny S. — Heather and Carmen — are they here?”

“Johnny S. is working on site. Do you know him? He’s great. As for Heather and Carmen, they live in Camas, not too far from here, but they don’t start work ‘til 2:00 p.m.. They’re working at R403, one of the two restaurants that we’ve already opened. There’s lots of people already on site, you know, construction workers and Expo employees. They’ve been getting the site ready for five years now, and we’ve already started to do big food business. Heather and Carmen don’t have a home phone, but I’ll give you the restaurant’s number, and you can get them later after they’ve shown up for work. Now as far as Johnny S. is concerned, he could be anywhere.”

Luke helped himself to a cup of coffee, its taste like his arrival so far, not so fresh nor very tasty. He was becoming numb from lack of sleep. He’d been up over 36 hours. Gloria came back out of her office and informed Luke that Harry was on the phone and he wanted to speak with him.

“Lucky, baby! You’re here. . . Look! . . . I want you to get out of the nave as soon as possible. I don’t want you hanging around, talking with anybody or making friends. Lucky you’re going to work exclusively for me. You’re going to be my hit man. For now, get your stuff and get over to the apartment. Meet me tomorrow on site and we’ll have breakfast . . . or at least coffee and we’ll talk more. Try and get some rest. Look, Lucky, it’s a little crowded over at the apartment where you’re staying for now. I gotta get some of those people out of there. It’s supposed to be exclusively for visiting friends and company executives. Tell one of the kids to sleep on the floor. They’re young and they can take it.”

Before Harry was off the wire Luke caught his attention for the moment and asked a favor. “Hey, Harry, one thing, how about doing me a favor? From now on call me, Luke OK. I don’t go by Lucky anymore. I don’t want to lay anything funny on you right now, but I’d prefer that it start off that way so other people know what to call me.”

“Yeah-yeah, sure, Lucky, anything you say. Oh Christ! . . . I’m sorry, Luke. Don’t worry it’s Luke from now on. I promise.”

A Spanish employee drove him to the company apartment, which was about a 20-minute drive away. Luke said nothing as he scanned the dreary looking landscape of Camas—Seville’s dog-patch suburb. It reminded him of some border towns in Mexico while on weekend pass back in the Army. The company apartment was located on top of a hill in San Juan another of Seville’s suburban pueblos. From the car Luke could make out that Seville lay in a valley surrounded by low riding hills. On those hills were various pueblos in all directions.

He entered a cramped elevator, an elevator so small it could only lift Luke his two suitcases and the Spanish driver. A tired looking girl in a bathrobe answered the apartment’s door. The driver headed back, assured Luke gained entry into the apartment.

She was home from work with the flu. She sniffled her way around and pointed out the bedroom to Luke. The three- bedroom apartment, along with its living area, was cluttered with sleeping bags and cots. It smelled of sneaker odor. It wasn’t very homey. There wasn’t a picture on the wall or a houseplant in sight. The Spanish tile counter, near the sink, was littered with coffee grinds, spilled milk and granular sugar messing the counter and the floor. Other than a cluttered kitchen table and three fold-up chairs with bent rungs there was no other furniture to be seen—no phone, no TV, no nothing. All and all the dump showed as depressing. Luke tired tried to sleep and did.

He was shaken out of his deep-sleep at about 8:00 p.m. by the annoying put-put sounds of motorbikes that mosquitoed up and down the outside street. Awake he could hear Spanish being spoken everywhere. It dawned on him, once again, that he was deep within a foreign land, with a language he didn’t understand; with customs that he knew nothing about . . .while entrusting his fate to strangers who so far to him seemed lost themselves.

He staggered out of the bedroom to find the girl still in her bathrobe girl sitting in the kitchen reading a Spanish magazine and having a cup of tea. Her name was Liz and she said that she worked in the finance department. She painted a similar picture, similar to the one Gloria offered, and she went further to say that things were all fucked up.

“You have to watch your back around here with Gary and Brady,” she warned.

Luke didn’t want to get into it and was famished. Instead of going on about what she called an archaic situation, Liz directed him to a small tapa bar nearby where he could order something to eat. Once there he could also telephone Heather and Carmen at their restaurant. Luke made his way outside the apartment building and walked along new unexplored turf. Everything was strange. The small European sidewalks and the cobblestoned streets added a difference. Being early in the evening, kids were playing on every-corner the way kids gather everywhere. A plethora of mini-soccer matches were at hand. The kids suspended their playing taking an unofficial time-out from their game and checked-out the strolling dude sporting the Golden State Warrior’s cap.

Luke was sure that he heard one say, “Americano.”

Luke wondered into a small cafe. He sought out the furthermost, least exposed table. Still unsettled and still feeling really out of place, not confident about how he was going to handle the communications, he stirred his inners to get up the gumption to order a beer and something to eat. Cerveza, the word popped into his memory, the Spanish word meaning beer.

He rustled into his waist pack and dug out his computerized translator and let his fingers spelled out: “fish.” The keyboard’s mercury face flashed “pescado.” OK. so far. Printed on a chalkboard leaning-up against the wall was the word potata. That was easy. One didn’t have to be a linguist to figure out that they served beer, fish and potatoes. Saying it all in Spanish the first time was another story.

Luke, not so sure of himself, walked up to the bar and spit out his order. The Spanish man behind the bar “Si-si’d” without much fanfare and soon enough Luke was having a cold Cruz Campo, some oily fish and cold potatoes. Luke listened in on the conversations going on around him trying to absorb what the people inside the cafe were saying. So far, to Luke, Spanish sounded like ice cubes being crushed up in a blender. It was all garbled. As far as fluid communications were concerned, he was in big trouble.

The state of things held true when Luke tried to pay the bill. He simply relied on the old rubbing of the thumb and index finger together to get the barkeeper’s attention. The bartender told Luke in his everyday rapid-fire delivery and mouthed, “quatro cientos, veinte cinco,” a mouthful of what, Luke had no idea.

     “No entiendo,” was all that Luke could utter.

“!Quatro cieno, veinte cinco!” This time the man seemed annoyed.

“No hablo Espanol, senior,” came lamely off Luke’s tongue. The man smarted and shook his head, implying with negative body language he wasn’t up for dealing with foreigners. Instead, he picked up chalk and wrote upside-down as for Luke to see the numbers 425.

“Oh!” Luke was relieved, he fished into his pocket and yanked out the Spanish coins and handed them over to the man, a larger than a quarter, gold-colored, 500-peseta coin. The coin was equivalent to $5.00. The man gave him back three coins of 25-pesetas each. Luke was satisfied and offered two of what he perceived as quarters as a tip. He needed the third. Luke motioned, wondering if it would be all right to use the pay phone. “Si,” answered the bartender who acted surprised by the tip.

“All right!” came from Carmen’s telephone voice. “We heard you were coming, you bugger. We’re so glad you’re here. Look, we get off work at midnight. Come to the north gate of Expo, we’ll meet you outside. Bring your stuff. We hear that the company apartment is full. Stay at our place tonight.”

Luke asked Carmen to spell out how one would say “north gate” in Spanish. Puerto norte was it. Luke went back to the apartment and grabbed an overnight bag. There still was a few hours before he had to meet the girls He nursed a few beers at another tapa bar while still taking in his surroundings and did some further people watching.

Other that an assortment of black-buckled, open-toed shoes worn by the girls, those with a distinct European flare, he could have been in Iowa. In the March evening’s coolness the kids around the bar wore Levi-jackets and Levi-jeans. Hotel California played from a tape cassette. Only difference from his compatriots in the States was that everybody seemed to carry some sort of backpack. The Spanish so far in Luke’s view were good-looking people, not that it mattered but they were a lot more Caucasian looking than expected. He imagined dark-complexioned people on a larger scale such as Latinos from Central and South America. It wasn’t the case. There were those with what he had perceived as classic Spanish looks. Especially some of the women; those dark-eyed beauties with pulled-back hair, wrapped into a bun, but on the most part they were Western looking.

Luke involved himself in another verbal wrestling match while trying to talk the bartender into calling him a cab. Twenty minutes later at about 11:45 a cab arrived. Luke gave the driver the instructions written-down in Spanish by his own hand, so the taxi would take him directly to the fair’s north gate. For the third-time during his first-day inside of Spain Luke found himself on the concrete beltway that encircled the city and the huge fair site.

   “Aqui,” the driver said, indicating they were at the designated spot. Outside were lights and a bevy of activity and despite the fact that the fair was not yet officially open people muddled everywhere. Luke paid the driver 900-pesetas and jumped out of the taxi. He marched across a spacious plaza. He admired how the smooth surface of the plaza tiles set with an expensive marble. He arrived and camped outside the gate, milling and waiting, taking in the comings and goings.

Ten minutes later he found out that in all actuality he was not at the north gate but the south gate! He cursed the taxi driver and was overcome with a wave of panic. Luke bolted back across the good-sized plaza and went in search of another taxi! He discarded what he thought was a worthless piece of paper the one with the written instructions. In his panic his memory couldn’t muster up how to say, “north gate” in Spanish!

Getting a cab — impossible. In unfamiliar territory and not knowing the ropes, Luke got muscled away from any oncoming taxis. After a few fruitless tries, getting elbowed-out and rather than getting into an altercation, he backed off. Across the street he caught a glimpse of a stopped bus with circular exterior.” printed on its marquee. He presumed the bus had to go around the fair and would stop by the north gate.

He was already a half-hour late and felt as if he was in hot water, knowing full well if he missed Heather and Carmen he’d be stuck with no idea how to talk to anyone! For that matter he couldn’t return to the company apartment, he didn’t even know precisely where it was. He hopped on the bus, but when queried by the driver, again he became tongue-tied.

The bus-driver blurted out something he didn’t understand. “?Donde este vasando?”

Luke frustrated, having no idea how much the bus ride cost, or where it went could only express himself by speaking in English. The driver, baffled by the stranger who clearly wasn’t Spanish, became frustrated also unable to communicate with the loco foreigner. The driver was pressed, hearing the cries of “vamos” coming from his own busload of passengers packed in like sardines. He ordered Luke off the bus.

Luke backed off the bus confused, his mind spinning, not sure which course of action he should pursue. Then, same as it might have been for Columbus, but of course on a much smaller scale, a small miracle ensued, when the very cab and driver that originally brought Luke to the site pulled up right in front of Luke.

“!Senior! !senior!” Luke implored—the driver remembered, and the words, “norte puerto,” spouted from his lips. The driver by then must have been aware of his error, yet it was highly unlikely that he sought out Luke on his own to correct his mistake. He motioned for him to get back into the taxi. Fifteen minutes latter, after encircling the entire fair, Luke was finally at the north gate.

By that time he was over an hour late. Huffing and puffing, out of breath, disheveled, he scanned the exiting crowd in search of Heather and Carmen.

Lucky for Luke while keeping the faith the girls stayed put. They were a sight for sorry eyes. Both girls, not looking as glamorous as in the past, gave him hearty hugs and kisses. Of course by then they already drank half-a-dozen beers.

They insisted that he’d kiss them on both cheeks.

“In Spain, this how we do it,” said a happy to see him Carmen, as she led him through the two-cheek smooch.

“Great! Luke’s here. . . You’ll have to excuse us we’re a little pissed. Oh, pissed doesn’t mean that you’re mad over here. It means you’re drunk.”

Luke didn’t give a damn if they were pissed in their pants or pissed at him. He was so relieved to see them. They pinched him with affection. They offered him his best welcome so far.

“C’mon Luke the electricians are waiting, they’ll give us a ride home.”

Two men named Mark and Allen stood in the background and then stepped forward. Both said, “Cheers, mate,” with Commonwealth accents extending strong hands.

The happy five-some drove to another small pueblo twenty minutes away.

The girls resided in an upstairs apartment on a small calle in the middle of the pueblo. The electricians, who turned out to be Scots, said they were too pooped to come up for a drink from working all day. Luke and the girls climbed the marble staircase. Its walls were geometrically set with square, blue-patterned, ornate tiles. Once inside Luke plopped on the furniture and Carmen poured out three Sherries.

For the next two hours they filled Luke in on all the goings on so far at the Harry Gross’s circus—World Wide Foods Inc. . . By then, Harry and his cronies abbreviated the company’s name to WWF. Many of his employees parlayed the abbreviation and coined the WWF monogram as; World War IV, further stating, if WW III would have occurred, it was nothing compared to the happenings in Seville.

The girls complained that things were far from the picture that Harry originally painted. People were disgusted and quitting. Both girls had been in country for over two months, and so far, only been paid the equivalent of $350 each. There supposedly was a mysterious $42,000 robbery; cash taken out of the company safe just three weeks before. Everything was fucked-up. Everyone runs around like chickens with their heads cut-off and nobody seems to know or care about what’s going on. They complained that Harry surrounded himself with no-talented “yes men” and that his son Gary was a tyrant. Only two restaurants were operating and the fair was due to open in two weeks.

When Luke asked about the accreditation procedure the situation became more confusing. It was a “Catch 22” situation. They warned that one couldn’t get accreditation to get into the fair unless they possessed a blue card from the Spanish government. The work visa he picked up in San Francisco held no weight. Its worth: The visa permitted the holder to apply for a so-called blue card. It became apparent the first few days in Spain they needed to help themselves, with work cut out due to no one in the company lifting a finger to help them acquire a blue card.

The girls took it upon themselves to get their own credentials by pressing the issue. That output of energy required six weeks. The bottom line, unless one possessed a government issued blue card, one would find it impossible to receive the necessary credentials. It seemed as if it was going to be tough for Luke and a real mess unless Harry helped.

The girls went on to say that the Spanish people were wonderful. They raved how they were full of life with the zest to spontaneously break out in song and dance. The girls said that despite the hardships that the locals went through they were unusually pleasant. The Spanish government wasn’t making it any easier on the locals either. Everybody, because of security reasons, went through the same process. According to Carmen and Heather the Spanish were oppressed for so many years and that they were used to the lengthily process. Every Spaniard is required to carry an identification card and if asked by the authorities they better have it.

The girls said the Spanish, on the most part, maintained a cheerful and helpful attitude when showing for their shifts. They weren’t all peaches and cream. You couldn’t take them into your confidence. Socially, in many ways they were immature and provincial at least compared to the women in the States. Yet the girls found them reliable, co-operative and curious but they remained clannish and proud.

They further filled in Luke that the Scot electricians so far were the only genuine good people working for Harry who they could rely on inside or outside of the company–originally they came from somewhere in Briton but at that time they maintained full-time residents down in Malaga on the “Costa de Sol.” The Scots were contracted by Harry’s company and were up in Seville spending the spring wiring and rewiring the restaurants.

Heather and Carmen said that the electricians weren’t too pleased with their department either. The men supposedly complained how most of the original installed electrical was inferior, if not corrected there could be some serious fire hazards. Naturally, Harry accepted the low bid.

In addition the girls said, “People are arriving everyday from all over the world, after being promised good jobs by Harry, but then Gary . . . Harry’s son, tells them they should go back home ‘cause there’s no more jobs.’” They lamented there was absolutely no compassion or respect for people within the company’s higher echelon.

Luke masked his disappointment in spite of what he was hearing. He told them that things could change. He told them about what Harry said, about him working exclusively with him and about him supposedly being his main man. He was going meet Harry on site the next day for breakfast and a chat. Luke stated he was confident that he’d be able to straighten a lot out. He was sure. Luke repeated what Harry said and how he wanted to employ his managerial talents and that it probably would be him who would pull the company together.

The girls didn’t challenge Luke or his self-appointed role of new importance. They figured that Luke would find out for himself, and be in for a bigger surprise than he might bargain for if he tried to challenge the barriers that were already in place. Instead of speculating they went on to practical matters.

“How are you going to get on site if you don’t have any credentials?” asked Heather.

Luke hadn’t thought of that. Evidently, in his hurry to get a new start on life, he hadn’t considered many things. He finally acknowledged to the girls and himself for the first time, he wasn’t so sure himself. He summed-up, at least he was there.

Carmen pulled from her pack some extra-credentials, ones that belonged to employees who never reported for work allocated to one Ricardo Sanchez Gonzales, a Spanish employee.

The next day Luke would stroll through the gate, and be an imposter. They shared another sherry and the girls showed Luke to an extra bedroom. Despite his concerns, because of all the traveling, he slept like a puppy.

When Luke awoke the girls were still knocked out. He would have departed for the site on his own but was stuck and almost terrified about the idea of having to go outside and deal with the Spanish, besides having no clue about where to go.

While the girls still slept he went out to the roof and scanned the Seville skyline in the distance. He panned and took in the more immediate skyline of the pueblo. Mostly what he saw that was visible was an aluminum field of TV antennas on black-tar roofs.

When the girls finally awoke they made coffee and readied themselves for work with them going in early to show Luke the way.

Down the calle on the corner all three boarded the bus. Luke couldn’t help but be impressed with the girls Spanish. They too first arrived in Spain not speaking a word of the language just eight weeks before. He wished that he’d be able to fare nearly as well after a couple of months. Right then, it seemed impossible, however, in his mind, he was confident that one day soon he too would be able to speak and be understood. By 11:00 a.m., with sweaty palms, Luke was in front of both the World’s Fair service gate and a security guard, a sentry backed up my a member of the Guardia civil toting another one of those machine guns.

Luke flashed the bogus card and held his breathe.

The guard asked him something. Carmen prompted him not to answer, “Act stupid,” She warned.

Then Carmen began to act up and make a commotion of her own and became enough of a distraction for the guard to forget about Luke for the moment and focus his attention towards her.

   “Rapido! rapido! por favor. No tiempo por estes hablando!

Carmen and the guard began to argue. Luke froze as if he was a guy stuck in cement. The machine-gun totting guard, sizing up Luke and wanting to keep the line moving rescued Luke from his limbo and waved him in.

“Pase, pase,” he ordered.

Luke caught the opportunity wasted no time and took off, not to look back, chuckling on the inside while still hearing Carmen, and Heather arguing with the guard. He was in!

A few moments latter the giggling girls joined him where he sat, still not sure about the outcome of their staged beef. He sat at a nearby but not yet opened hamburger stand.

“This is one of ours,” Heather said, pointing to the stand near where he sat.

Actually it was a good-sized building. On its facade was an array of fast-food signs in English. “BURGERS,” “CAFE,” “PASTRIES,” “PIZZA,” “FRIES,” were words painted on the sides of the building in red and blue lettering, all on white Plexi-glass, advertising the restaurants soon-to-be, fast-food offerings.

“R400 is its code name. It’s not opened yet; they’re having trouble hooking-up the gas. All of the buildings at the fair are numbered. Food concessions are numbered in the 400s. We work at R403. C’mon, it’s this way.”

Luke and the two girls headed deeper into the fairgrounds. For the next six months the sprawling site would be his home. He took ganders and rubber necked all surroundings as they strolled by the ultra-modern structures. A sleek monorail above gave the site a futuristic look. They passed by Fiji, a remote exhibit . . . then steps away . . . why they were in front of the good ole U.S. of A.

Its edifice’s wall was draped with a mesh like cloth with cascading water falling behind the see-through curtain. He saw it as chintzy for the U.S. Inside the pavilion’s gate, a swirl of tear drops painted in vibrant colors with a tye-dye look, presented itself as a far-out mural painted by Peter Max. High above the pavilion, perched on three, steel poles showed a disjointed, made-of-plastic, non-waving, frozen in place Old Glory.

The facsimile of the American flag was a plastic cut out — a billboard — yet the flag look alike was broken into three-distinct parts. Luke couldn’t remember seeing the American flag presented in such a configuration. He didn’t like it.

Still on the hoof they pasted by New Zealand on the right. Once they came upon the British Isles they made a sharp left. The threesome came upon a similar building, resembling the WWF structure back by the gate, one made up of the same pre-fabricated materials as was R400, only this building showed different advertising painted on its hanging plastic edifice:“ENSALADA” “BARBECUE,” “HELADOS.”

Evidently they arrived at Heather and Carmen’s work place, R403. Once inside the girls abandoned Luke and they hopped to some of their managerial chores. Luke felt uneasy again, left alone, unsure of himself with all that Spanish being spoken. The restaurant was humming and getting set-up for the coming day’s business.

Uniformed in red polo shirts the foreign help sported American style baseball caps with the word Hawaii printed on them. The way the hats were cocked, in awkward fashions made their appearance somewhat comical. Nobody ever showed the women how to wear a real baseball cap and the only place most of the younger Spanish girls ever saw them worn was on rap videos.

Luke asked Carmen and Heather why the girls had “Hawaii” printed on their hats. He thought the restaurant’s theme was supposed to be a Kansas City Barbecue?

“Probably because our company is a bunch of cheap skates,” Heather said. “Everything that we do around here seems to be cheap. A neat guy from New York showed up wanting to outfit our employees with U.S. sports caps. They were the authentic kind without that plastic mesh on the back. They were so cool, made from wool like your Warrior’s hat. He was selling hats with the Lakers, the Raiders, the 49ers, Yankees, all of them. He offered a bargain to Harry. Five dollars a hat, because he was starting out and he was going to be at the Olympiad in July, kicking-off an American sports wear venture here in Spain. Harry gave him the run around, broke two appointments and tried like hell to Christian him down. Instead, he opted for the $1.99 ones, the ones with the plastic mesh and flimsy peaks.”

The girls introduced Luke to the restaurant’s general manager who’s name was Alex. Alex was a gaunt man, perhaps his bulk eroded and was chiseled away by the responsibilities. He acted pleasant enough and gave Luke an enthusiastic welcome. The girls, after seeing that things were in order, gave Luke a tour of the restaurant. By then the girls developed a rapport with their staff and they joked with the co-workers as they made their rounds.

   “Otro Americano, mi amigo, ello nombre es, Luke.”

Heather and Carmen used the same spiel as they showed Luke off. The mostly young Spanish girls giggled the way shy girls giggle everywhere. The names whizzed by like quotes on a Wall Street ticker. They all seemed to be named either, Maria Jose or Maria Theresa, or Maria Jose Theresa . . . but every once in a while just so to stir things a Maria Carmen or something else would be tossed in.

“Maria Carmen! Hey! There’s a familiar name,” voiced Luke, looking Carmen’s way, perhaps searching for something to say, rather than just being able nod his head up and down for the past twenty minutes. His off-the-cuff comment didn’t hammer home. The Spanish girls stared at him. They couldn’t fathom or have an idea what he was talking about. Instead they just stayed giddy and looked away.

On the whole they were attractive. Most wore their curly hair pulled back tucked under their caps. Under those polo shirts they boasted plump, ample, bust-lines, small waists and nice rounded hips. Luke’s eyes took second glances admiring what was obvious. Always a legman he especially paid attention to their strong-shapely gams.

A true legman such as he picked out some favorites and taking second looks, at how some of those shapely legs contoured. He further admired the muscle tone around the mid-thigh. When having a chance he would run his eyes from the small-boned ankles upward and have to be careful with his peeps so not to get caught and hoped to get his eyes on the meat of the matter. Upon closer and a more gentlemanly examination, Luke noticed that Spanish women wore their wedding rings on their right-hand. Almost all wore gold crucifixes, which dangled from gold-chained necklaces.

Alex offered Luke a cup of coffee and something to eat. He’d take the coffee but skip the food. He’d told Alex that he probably eat breakfast or lunch with Harry.

The day before Harry provided Luke his cellular number and told to call him once he arrived on site. Luke asked Alex if he could use the telephone while waiting on the coffee. Alex gave Luke directions how to find the restaurant’s payphone. Luke reached for a Spanish 25-peseta coin. Alex told him that to reach Harry on the cellular it cost a full cien, which was equivalent to a buck. Luke dug deeper for the gold-colored coin. He took a good look at the coin before he placed it into the utility. The Spanish equivalent of a dollar with a raised image — the likeness of King Juan Carlos was minted onto it. It dawned on him and he thought about it being kind of funny, “they have a king and all.”

Instead of dwelling on about the king, while on his way to make the call, Luke did a fast money inventory to tally up where he stood. He’d spending money at a fair clip. Between Kennedy-Madrid-and the Fair he was then under $1,400 in cash.

He dialed Harry’s cellular number. Instead of Harry’s voice he heard a recorded message in Spanish. He latched onto a nearby Carmen and passed her the receiver so she could interpret the message for him.

After listening to the message Carmen hung up the phone and turned to Luke. “As usual, Harry probably has his cellular turned off. He does it all the time. It seems every time you want to get a hold of him you get that message.”

Luke went back to have a second coffee. Looking around and seeing for himself more of the restaurant and its surroundings, Luke wondered about the restaurant’s location and its proximity to the flow of walking traffic. Water-fountains stymied three paths that led to where he sat. The fountains pools almost surrounded it. The sole unobstructed path heading towards the barbecue was the restaurant’s back-end. On top of that a set of speakers blared out a racket coming from an annoying puppet show. The noisy show would continue to blast away at diners and staff eight times a day all throughout the duration of the fair.

Luke’s business sense deemed the layout as poor and the noisy puppet show as strike two. R403 was off, what would become a beaten path, with its shade-bearing, red-umbrella tables and neon lights advertising a mouth-watering menu may not be enough to attract customers.
The establishment was almost an island.

Alex sat down and joined Luke. Luke asked about how the Expo people divvied out locations. Alex told Luke that Harry and Gary had to bid on location. Alex said, “The better the location the higher the ante.”

Luke hmmmd.

Luke tried to call Harry 20-minutes later. He met the same response. By then it was 12:30 and the day’s heat was coming-on. Luke took into consideration that then it was only early April. He was forewarned about Seville’s searing summers through his travel agent.

Almost everywhere, the Expo people erected an ingenious micro-cooling system. A jungle of perforated pipes snaked around the over-hangs of every building on its 700 acres. National pavilions, food-stands, restaurants, rest-rooms, Expo buildings and all show cased the same piping lassoed to their roofs. A huge global-shaped sphere in the middle of Expo was completely entwined with the PVC pipes. The pipes were camouflaged, cleverly painted in the same colors as the buildings that they were entwining. City-block long walkways were shaded by ivy-covered over-head trestles constructed primarily in perforated pipe form. The ivy over-head masked the miles of a jet-age, PVC pipe. The heat from the April sun was just a sampling of things to come. Soon enough the pipe way would be counted on to cool down millions of prospective hot and tired fair goers.

The system activated automatically, triggered by the rise in the temperature. A refreshing midst would be released all-of-a-sudden to the delight of the hot-and-itchy below. Water vapor in midst form sprinkled out of the pipeline and gently delivered dampness that cooled the oven-like air below. The system reduced a 120-degree torment to a more refreshing 105, all while in the shade. Luke would soon enough sense the not so subtle differences between 120 and 105.

It wasn’t messy either. Puddles formed only in a few spots. Ingenious Luke thought. Twenty minutes later Luke dunked another cien into the phone. There was no recorded message like before. Instead he heard another one of those foreign sounding rings.

“Hello!” came a loud, cheery sounding voice. It was Harry.

“Why, Luke! Where are you? I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

Luke explained. Luke added how he substituted somebody else’s ID. at the gate just to get in. Luke began to inquire about what he needed to do to . . . Harry cut him off abruptly, as if he could care less.

“Look, Luke! Meet me at R415 in a half hour OK.” He was gone.

Luke inquired and found out that R415 was the other operating restaurant. Luke said good-bye to the girls and said that he’d be back. He received directions and was off to R415.

Meeting Harry at WWF’s, R415, gave Luke a chance to see more of the fair and he ventured deeper onto the fairgrounds. Last minute construction was in full swing. Fleets of cranes, cement trucks, earth moving equipment and thousands of workers were busy setting the final stage. Briefcase carrying vendors walked fast to their next appointment; most were wearing sunglasses and to Luke they pranced with a certain, pseudo, sophisticated look. Serious-faced men strutted and wore their suit jackets draped over their shoulders as if they were shawls. Oblivious, the Euro’s hurried determinedly with satchels in hand. There were so many leather-strapped satchels the place could have been an insurance man’s convention. Luke couldn’t help but notice how the mood was so formal and here it was Saturday. The reps, in their fine-tailored suits ,were well dressed, smoking their cigarettes, remained quick on their feet and seemed pissed off. Most puffed on cheap Fortunas, which they yanked from of expensive-looking cigarette cases and then after hammering them on the case about a half-dozen times they jammed the diggers into their ornate-looking acrylic-cigarette holders. Their cheap smokes were lit by cheap Bics. The Spaniards moved at a 100-mile-per-hour pace yet they smoked like they were going 20.

An army of Expo workers, all donned in new, multi-colored, blue-and-orange Expo uniforms appeared snappy enough but were ugly as dog shit. Their demeanor: Pumped-up! A Disneyland type of enthusiasm prevailed. Most clutched onto brand-new walkie-talkies. They cradled them almost affectionately. And there were lots of cops talking into their walkie-talkies. Moving along Luke moseyed by souvenir stands stocking-up.

Outside one souvenir stand Luke noticed a man with a bad toupee, of course he too was smoking a cigarette. He was yelling in annunciated Spanish into his cellular, away from the store’s racket. Everybody seemed to have some sort of walkie-talkie, cell phone or a beeper and they were all using them. Nobody was talking to anybody in the flesh. The air was full of Spanish. Even the parked, riderless motorcycle– why their walkie-talkies crackled each other or to anyone who would listen. Luke felt left out.

Luke walked passed Germany not really knowing that it was Germany because it was spelled Alamenia. Next came Venezuela and Canada — Canada gained the notoriety, before the fair officially opened, as the fair’s favorite. The nation’s exhibit was housed in an impressive structure surrounded by multiple colored fountains and pools.

A sea of international symbols indicated restrooms and telephones. The signs and symbols would guide the international crowd through the fair. All of those unique looking reminders continued to make Luke feel as if he were more and more alone in a foreign land. Both lonely but at the same time exhilarated he wondered about his future. He came upon R415.

The place was busy. It was lunchtime. R415 displayed the same familiar signs as the other WWF restaurants. The eatery contained a pizza section in the front and a hamburger station in the rear. A waffle department sat deserted in another wing. It wasn’t open yet. Spanish workers handed out slices of pizza, burgers and cokes the same way they do anywhere in the USA. But when the girls shouted-out their orders it wasn’t “Give me a hotdog!” that carny-ied off their lips.

Luke’s ears heard that distinct sounding Spanish rolling R. “Perrito caliente!” was hollered out by the women. Perr-r-r-r-r-rito caliente was none other than a good, old-fashioned, American hotdog. “Perrito caliente,” translated from Spanish into English: “dog— hot.” Perrito: meaning dog, caliente: hot. Luke’s complete failure to understand the Spanish language was becoming more and more evident at every turn.

Luke at first just wandered around, not bothering to announce himself. His ears zeroed right in when he heard a man behind the counter who was speaking English. Luke stepped up and introduced himself — he was there to meet with Harry. The English speaking man said his name was Kenny and that he was the restaurant’s assistant-manager. He identified himself as a French-Canadian from Montreal. He also revealed that he spoke French. Luke, who heard the man speak in Spanish, asked him how he spoke such good Spanish since he was from Montreal. Kenny said he had taken some language courses earlier while in Spain and that he had been in the country for almost a year.

Kenny said he desired to come to Spain all of his life and this was the perfect opportunity. His wife Loretta also worked for WWF, in the office at the nave. He excused himself since it was busy but told Luke to go ahead and stroll around. The restaurant flashed a number of neon signs inside and out. Some of the worded signs Luke didn’t understand because they were in Espanol. Almost an hour passed since Luke first arrived at R415.

By then it was around 2:00 p.m.. Kenny came outside to where Luke was sitting and asked him if he’d like some lunch. Luke declined, thanked Kenny, and said that he’d wait, and that he probably would eat with Harry. A half-hour later Luke tossed in another cien into a chubby phone and tried to get hold of Harry. Again, he heard the recorded message. Another hour passed slowly . . . Perhaps Harry was held-up? The next hour brought the same results from the phone. Luke wolfed down a cheeseburger. It was pretty good.

At 4:30 Luke reached Harry.

“Hang in there, Luke. I’m on my way. Say did you eat yet? Boy, I’m starved.” He was gone.

At 5:30, still, no Harry. Luke was bored stiff and felt silly waiting around the restaurant. Every once in a while he caught Kenny or one of the other workers staring at him. He felt small. With no one to talk and nowhere to go Luke was becoming getting blue, depressed while already being exhausted.

A break in the monotony came around 6:30 when there was a rehearsal for a parade. The parade would snake through Expo and be cheered on by huge crowds every evening for the upcoming six months. The parade lasted about a half-hour and was noisy. After taking it all in Luke could only compare the extravaganza to one of those Bud beer commercials back in the United States. The beer ad that previewed vignettes, emotional scenes from some foreign film and dialogue asks, “Why ask, why?” Luke never thought much of the Continent’s humor.

At 8:00 Harry casually strolled up to Luke’s table. Luke at first stared at him and didn’t move. He managed a weak smile and slowly grabbed onto Harry’s extended hand. Behind Harry were two younger men. Harry maintained a cheap smile but offered no real apologies and even kidded that he finally made it. Harry’s excuse, they were on the way and starved so they stopped off for a bite a few yards down the promenade at the British pavilion.

“I should have told you to come down; the fish and chips were great . . . just great.”

Harry introduced Luke to his son, Gary who Luke remembered from his auto leasing days. Along with them was Brady, Gary’s college friend, “Brady’s from Seattle.”

Gary gave Luke a weak handshake. Brady’s was more responsive. Brady carried an over-sized portfolio tucked under his arm, its binding strength was being tested while bulging with papers. Harry wasted no time. He skipped any niceties and implored with Luke.

“Look, Luke! You have to get R401 open for me as soon as possible. It’s imperative that we have R401 open by the time Expo opens in two weeks. I don’t care what you have to do or who you have to burn, just get it fuckin’ open! I need the business. C’mon we’ll walk down to it. It’s not far.”

Harry popped up and bolted out of his chair disregarding the order of drinks he ordered only moments before. The other men also hopped to it. Luke wasn’t feeling so peppy but was obliged to rise and tag along. Luke wondered if Harry was trying to set an all-time speed record as he bolted in front of the three other men. Brady engaged Luke in some small talk. Brady probed Luke’s background and other trivial tidbits of information that are supposedly essential at getting relationships going. Evidently from what Luke could gather Harry never filled in Gary or Brady about Luke’s imminent arrival.

They passed by Russia, decked out in red-white-and-blue. Japan was next to Russia and flashed an Oriental slant to its architecture. In addition, standing out front of the Nippon pavilion were at least a hundred life-sized placards capturing an assortment of Japanese in their everyday life. Further down the stretch Saudi Arabia pitched its tent but was yet complete. By that time of day its construction workers went home. At Zaire’s pavilion, Harry, with Gary and Brady up his ass, made a hairpin left. Luke brought up the rear.

Luke was doing some heavy thinking while huffing and puffing. All along, so far, his hunch; he’d made a big, big mistake.

Around another corner, the leading-three men waited for Luke outside a pre-fab construted restaurant still under construction. It was like the others, but on a much smaller scale. The soon-to-be eatery was more of a kiosk. Brady bent down and retrieved a key, poorly hidden, just inside an exposed drainpipe. They unlocked the door and went inside. There was no electricity and by then it was almost dark.

Once all four were inside Harry spoke. “Luke! Get the electricity and gas turned on. . . . Have it spotless! Gary will give you some people . . . Call the warehouse and order your food!”

Harry pranced the floor.

“Oh yeah, make sure you check with the computer people; see to it that those cash-registers are on line. We want to start bringing in money as soon as possible. Don’t forget we have to give them their twenty-percent — Kabeech?”

Harry snatched the store key out of Brady’s hand and slammed it into Luke’s palm.

“There’s a general meeting at R403 for all managers Monday morning. You should be there.”

At last Luke got a chance to ask Harry about the credential thing.

“How did you get on site today?” Harry asked.

Luke told him that the girls lent him a bogus card. Harry, acting as if he was listening pulled out his cellular and began to make a call. Luke mistakenly thought that Harry might be getting right on the case to straighten out the accreditation thing. Luke continued to pour out some of his needs, still thinking that Harry was paying attention.

Harry, instead of listening Luke out or doing anything about the credential problem, spoke on the wire with one of his Spanish employees about an unrelated matter. Harry moved away so not to be overheard. When finished he returned. He never acknowledged or mentioned further, ignoring Luke’s credential problem.

Gary on cue, as if he’d been there before and without fanfare took over for his father and talked down to Luke.

“Be at R415 and meet me first thing tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m.

“Don’t be late. Only punctual people work out for me!”

He actually had the nerve to say it, in that type of tone, in front of Harry and Brady.

Then he took a different turn, telling Luke in a snotty manner that he’d begun the process, which would eventually provide Luke with his proper credentials. His tone sounded that he’d only be satisfied after he made Luke say “uncle.”

For what . . . Luke didn’t know?

Gary said he’d assign him a crew in the morning, people who could help him to spruce up the R401. Gary finally addressed the phony Expo pass, the one that Luke had in his possession and ID with the image on it of somebody named Ricardo. Gary revealed, “As of next week the Expo people are going to begin the electronic finger-printing process and the card that you now possess won’t be able to get you pass the gates.”

Luke should use the hot card as long as it gets him in according to Gary. He never addressed what WWF would do to procure the proper credentials during the additional five weeks it might take for Luke to get approved.

With that said and done Harry heard enough and was getting fidgety. “Caio baby! You’re on your own.”

Harry was off to the races heading west, and while not three paces away, Harry was already talking to somebody else on his cellular and heading towards R415. In turn, Gary and Brady dropped Luke like a time-share salesman after the free breakfast and rushed away to catch up with the boss. Luke wasn’t invited to even tag along. He was deserted, in a dark lonely restaurant in the middle of a yet to be opened World’s Fair.

So that was Luke’s auspicious greeting. Luke who scraped together a shrinking life came all the way — 12,000-miles . . . halfway around the stinking world. With only Harry’s word to go on, Luke was fulfilling his end of the deal and so far Harry hadn’t offered a fucking cup of coffee. Luke, a man in dire need of some sort of support system was close to the brink. The sole passion that boiled within him was that of anger.

He talked to himself “And how the hell do they think I am going to tell people to turn on the gas and electric? I have no phone . . . no car. I don’t know where anything is. I don’t have the slightest idea where the gas and electric companies are . . . and if I did . . . I can hardly speak a word of Spanish anyway. I can’t believe this is happening. What’s the matter with these people?” Luke felt hapless and helpless.

For Luke and the rest of the Western world, it was Saturday night. A melancholy night substantiated by that Sinatra lullaby that “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week.” The area around R401 by then was almost deserted. He shuffled back through the fairgrounds.

In a few weeks during that exact hour the site would be packed with hundreds of thousands of fairgoers folding-and-unfolding their Expo maps in search of the next pavilion. For Harry Gross’s sake, WWF’s, Gary and Brady’s, Heather and Carmen’s and for Luke’s piece of the fair-ending pay bonuses, Luke better wish that each-and-every one of those thousands would be hungry as hell for an American cheeseburger.

Soon enough the throngs would be eating ice cream and drinking cokes, rubbernecking the sights and there would be laughter and music in the air–but not that night. The few sounds that filled the cool springtime evening’s air were the whacking of a distant hammer and the eerie whine of an errant jigsaws working late. Activity picked up somewhat when Luke got closer to R403 the only restaurant still opened.

R403’s lights were a beacon—a place where Luke was sure to find some comfort in Heather and Carmen’s company. Once there he found the girls busy managing the restaurant. They were supervising the serving up of barbecued-ribs and roasted-chicken. By then the extensive salad bar located on the opposite side of the restaurant was busy, as was the tasty-looking pastry section in another corner. A soft, ice-cream section kitty-cornered the pastry department.

The girls gave him a reassuring smile. They felt for Luke. They were well aware how Harry had Luke wait unnecessarily for almost eight hours. If anyone understood the put down it was the girls. He didn’t deserve such a run around. It wasn’t good for moral. Rumors were about that he was going to be one of the big bosses. After all, over everybody else, they witnessed first-hand the idea of Luke and Harry as equals.

Harry must have had something up his sleeve. He may have been sending a message towards Luke or somebody perhaps that things were different then. Luke, in front of the girls, made a gallant attempt to brush off the slight. Instead, he casually spoke of his dilemma, indicating all the missions that Harry had for him to accomplish right off the bat. He did mention how he had no idea about where to start. They sympathetically implored with him not to worry. They’d help best they could.

Out of the night came a rumbling as a two-and-a-half refrigeration truck vroomed toward the front of the restaurant. Its horn was beeping and its lights were blinking. The truck seemed to be veering out-of-control and about to plow into them. At the last possible moment it violently swerved to the right . . . the driver slammed on the brakes and the big-wagon’s tires made a blood-curdling squeal and skidded to a halt. The truck showed WWF’s yellow-and-green, ugly-circled, cobra stickers pasted all over it.

The face of the driver was not visible due to the darkness inside the nighttime cab. The door flung open and out of the cab jumped a big fellow who hit the ground like a veteran paratrooper. He firmly planted himself. He was wearing a cut-down, sleeveless T-shirt. A long pair of hairy legs extended out of Billabong-brand, bathing trunks — out of place in the chilly air — and growing out of clod-hopper construction boots he came to life and moved towards them.

“Hey, you rat-bastard!”

It was Johnny S.! The two men greeted each like old friends. Luke extended a happy hand but held Johnny S. at bey with the other hand.

“No-hugging! No-hugging!” he warned . . . It was an old joke between them. When Johnny S. first arrived in Hawaii, the Aloha State was a haven for the shrinking numbers of flower children from back in the Sixties. Luke, in the past, often poked fun at huggers and didn’t much care for the idea of men friends hugging. Johnny S. on the other hand cast away all those hang ups, and when he moved west, he subscribed to the new ways of thinking. At that stage of his life he was somewhat cosmic.

“C’mon.” Johnny held out his arms.

“No, besides we’re East Coast barbarians.”

“C’mon, you little shit, give me a hug.”

Luke did so . . . and not reluctantly. The girls eyes gleamed at the heart-warming sight, two long-time buddies were embracing in a foreign land. It was a tribute to a friendship that endured; two real-men who grew up together and who still held a great deal of affection for one another. They shared plenty of wild times even crazier than those Luke spent with Harry back on Maui. They went their separate ways yet always remained close.

Johnny S. filled in the girls about some of he and Luke’s exploits, especially the times when they were in the furniture liquidation business. The girls shamelessly confessed to Johnny about their first encounter with Luke. Nobody was pretentious. Heather and Carmen realized that this was certainly the type of greeting Luke needed and one that he deserved. They were happy for Luke to see Johnny S. there.

In the past Johnny S. and Luke were in the middle of some pretty-big deals and they made some serious money too. Luke, older, a few years on Johnny and introduced, the then big teenager to some of the cosmopolitan offerings of East Coast cities. Many times they’d take off to Boston, New York. Montreal or Philadelphia for good times and business. But when Johnny S. reached twenty one he departed Connecticut and gave up the loyal patronage of his buddy for the warm water and pounding surf of Hawaii.

Johnny S. suffered from a chronic case of surf fever since he was 12. Back then, when Johnny wasn’t working with Luke, he spent every spare moment searching for surfable waves out in the Atlantic Ocean. He snooped out all the hot surfing spots off Cape Cod, which is the place where Lucky and Johnny S. first met.

Johnny S. thought nothing of motoring off up to Maine and further, down to New York if there was an outside chance of finding some surf. Johnny would even travel another hundred and fifty miles out to Mantuak, on the tip of Long Island, if a possibility existed. He kept a spare wet suit tucked in the trunk of his car. Even in the winter, if there was a chance of finding surf he’d spend his off time camped by the seashore. His adolescent conversations and thought patterns were stoked with comparisons and fantasies, all about surfing Oahu’s Sunset beach and the world famous Kamikaze Pipe Line. He dreamed about taking a surfing safari far from the bright lights of Waikiki. Once Johnny S. attained the funds needed that’s just what he would do.

Despite the fact of being a 21-year old kid in 1976 and earning over a hundred grand a year and in a business where the sky was the limit — the kid had made that kind of money for over three years, yet early in his life he gave up the trappings. He put up for sale the Hartford residential, sold the Corvette and said good-bye to his family and friends.

After his solo pilgrimage to Hawaii and for fifteen carefree years Johnny S. lived the life of a surf bum becoming a fixture at surfer beaches in Hawaii. He was known in Hawaii as “Captain Splash,” the big, blond, East-Coast boy who surfed and flashed reckless abandon who couldn’t help but be noticed, especially the way he zoomed down waves while sporting a dashing, flamboyant, pony tail. He could be spotted on any given day attacking huge waves with full gusto. He mastered what every surfer dreamt, experiencing the thrills that go along with dealing with the elements and while surfing inside the tube of breaking waves. He flashed guts talent and he hung in there with the Australians, South Africans and those local daredevils from Hawaii.

After settling in Hawaii for a year he convinced Lucky to come out for a visit. Lucky enjoyed a great time, so much so, that after a few years and after making his own bundle, while still in the furniture liquidation business, he too gave up on Eastern Standard Time, turned the clock back five hours and moved to Hawaii.

Surfing wasn’t for Luke nor was its grungy lifestyle. Lucky’s fantasies and aspirations were different. So he settled over to exotic Maui. The two kept in touch but not much. That didn’t matter though. They both seemed satisfied with a close proximity. They shared the type of friendship whereas they could sit in a room with each other; watch a movie or football game and never have to utter a word.

After such casual visits, one of them might be to simply get up and leave. Perhaps the salutation might be no more than a mumbled, “later.” That was it. They respected the unspoken and it remained that way ever since they first met. Luke and Johnny S. were true friends.

Luke, before departing for Spain was aware that Johnny S. recently married. Of course he was invited over to Honolulu for the wedding but as the way things were and all, with his marriage and business going down the drain, he didn’t feel like going — even if it was Johnny S’s.

“Hey, you prick! You didn’t come to my wedding?”

“So! . . . There are lots of things that I don’t do anymore.”

“Does that give you an excuse not to come see your buddy? . . . Carmen and Heather tell me that you no longer go by the name of “Lucky.” Tell me . . . should I say you don’t call yourself Lucky anymore?

“We wouldn’t want to rule out the chance . . . I mean by making another fortune here at the world’s greatest Expo, I mean we wouldn’t want to rule that out would we?”

Luke not taking the bait, “Oh, I wouldn’t take it that far. I could use some luck. I suppose you have something big-boy.

“Johnny, you can call me whatever you want.”

“Sure Luke . . .

“How’s that? . . . Forget the name calling for a moment; do you know Maureen and I recently brought into the world a beautiful, little sugar of a girl. Her name is Chloe. You’ll have to see her. She’s a cutie. Imagine, me changing shitty diapers.”

“That’s just great, Johnny! I’ll have to meet Maureen. Maybe you’ll have me over for dinner sometime. I’ll cook some good-fucking pasta while you change shitty diapers.”

“Guarantees, brah.”

Carmen and Heather left the two men — extending to them some private time to re-acquaint themselves. Meanwhile, Luke and Johnny S. shared a six-pack of Cruz Campo around the rear of the truck.

Johnny S., Luke’s most reliable source, reported the same shaky outlook regarding Harry Gross’s food company same as everyone else. Johnny outlined for Luke his own Harry Gross connection. His wife Maureen once worked as a personal assistant in his office in Honolulu, back when they first got engaged. Johnny said that before he met Maureen he more-or-less was bumming around taking on night jobs as a bartender, so he could still surf in the daytime. Once they decided to get married they dreamt about purchasing a small piece of land and build a house but sufficient funds for the down payment eluded them, especially with the prices.

He and Maureen planned to move on over to the Big-Island of Hawaii, where land was less expensive. Harry sales pitched Maureen; if they were serious about buying land and building a house in Hawaii, she should come with him to Spain and manage one of his joints. Harry promised that Johnny S. could fit in too. They did their arithmetic and if things would go the way Harry proposed, those courses of proposed events could provide them with a substantial amount of seed money. Earning $250,000 between them for two years worth of sweat — that’s what they figured, and that’s what Harry figured they should both pull down, they’d be able to purchase a good-size lot on the Big Island and build a nice house for the Johnny S. family. “So, . . .” Johnny said, “that’s what me and Maureen were banking on.”

After residing in Spain for a little over a year and seeing everything that was going-down Johnny S. wasn’t so sure about the figures. “Oh, . . . ” he said, “they’ll do the business,” but he wasn’t so sure about the company making a profit. He told Luke about all the incompetence. He shook his head in disbelief referring to the waste, the wasting of time and materials, the wrong-wrong decisions and the incredible amount of stealing. He grumbled about the tyrant Gary and his ass-licking buddy, Brady. Johnny S. filled Luke in on how Harry lived lavishly on investors money and while in Spain, while Harry too lived in Spain for-over two years he hardly spoke a word of Spanish, or that he made no effort whatsoever to grasp the language or the customs for that matter.

“They fucking hate him, man. He shows no respect towards the Spanish . . . He breaks every rule . . . and when caught red handed he cries and squeals like a spoiled baby. He calls his lawyer every fifteen minutes about the slightest hand slap laid on him by the authorities and the guy ignores the legitimate problems that come up within the company. All the guy talks and cares about is the luxury yacht he says he’s going to buy when this is all over. Man! . . . He’s the epitome of the ugly American.

“I saw it all right-away. That’s why I’ve chosen to stay away from the restaurants and have decided to just drive a truck. I was on the construction team for a while but that was too scary. I’m surprised we haven’t electrocuted somebody over here with the 220V and all. I’m worried about Maureen even turning on a light switch.

“Harry, at first hired these cheaper than shit Moroccan electricians. I don’t even think they were Moroccans; I think they were some sort of Gypsies. The lights in the warehouse and new restaurants were flickering all the time and the refrigeration was blowing at least twice a day.

“So Harry stiffed the electricians and then got rid of them. He needed to call the Spanish cops to finally get rid of them. You should have seen this fucking guy — the head electrician. He was cursing at Harry in some god-damned language I never heard before like in tongue or something. While the cops were dragging him out, he even gave Harry the evil eye, like he was laying some god-damned curse on him or something.

“After that everything got fucked-up; our fork-lifts in the warehouse were repossessed, ‘cause the company isn’t paying its bills, so now we have to load everything by hand. Because our reputation is so putrid, we’ve endured every inspector on the site up our fucking asses. Did the girls tell you about the so-called safe robbery? Sorry! . . . Don’t get me started about Harry, I could go on and on.

“I don’t mean to depress you Luke but I figured you need to know the truth. If Maureen and I didn’t have every cent we have to our god-damned name invested in this trip, I’d think about splitting back to Hawaii in a New York minute. I hope things get better once the fair opens and I hope you’re still lucky. Luke, watch out, will you.”

After listening Johnny out, Luke gave Johnny a run-down about the ten or so people staying at the company apartment — about the eight hours of hanging around the site waiting for Harry. . . the weak greeting . . . smart-ass Gary and the litany of marching orders thrown in his lap by Harry right-off the bat. He said that he’d try to remain as optimistic if at all possible. He himself had been through some weird times and Luke confessed he was in Spain trying to get a fresh start on life. Luke expressed that he was wishing for the best yet the amble on Spain may have been a major error and could only wish he wouldn’t regret it. During his entire discussion with Johnny S., Luke never once referred to the word “lucky.”

Johnny offered Luke a ride back to San Juan, where the company apartment was located and where Luke would begin spending his nights in Spain. Luke said good-bye to the girls thanking them for everything so far and hopped up into Johnny S’s straight-job van.

Luke found Bill, the grouchy old man from the warehouse at the company apartment. He was the one who Luke first ran into at the nave when he arrived at WWF. Other than Bill everybody was still at work or out for Saturday night. Bill was boiling water to make some de-cafe.

Bill, a retired Navy Captain, was the so-called tech whiz for Harry‘s WWF. He supposedly was burdened many responsibilities such as purchasing all the restaurant equipment, new and used, its installation, and its maintenance. His Navy career provided him with the experience and know-how.

In the Navy he was no John Paul Jones. He had been part of the workhorse Navy. He was a faceless drone below the decks continuing to follow a long lineage of boiler tenders who have helped keep the nation’s fleets afloat.

Within the bowels and while serving deep inside Oilers, Tankers and Frigates, for 30-years he labored for Uncle Sam. People such as he kept the logistical lifeline of the Navy going for over 200-years. Dedicated engine rats, below the decks they sailed in with from below with the likes of Admiral Perry and could take credit for the capture Manila over Spain, and years later dedicated men like him kept Nimitz dry and alive in the Pacific. In his case he retired after serving admirably in WWII and Korea; plus he was sad to say that he helped contribute to America’s only military defeat while working for Admiral Zumwalt in the Tonkin Gulf during the Vietnam conflict.

By 1976 old Bill served long enough and checked out as soon as he was eligible for full retirement benefits and went back to Pearl Harbor. Somewhere along the line he hooked up with Harry Gross and joined his every-four-year extravaganza. He came cheap.

Old Bill maintained expansive knowledge when it came to machinery. He could read and understand blue prints — plus complicated-looking schematics belonging to computer boards, computer boards that dictated and eventually put into action the essential moving parts of today’s appliances.

He flashed particular shortcomings. His reputation was that of being rude, short and none compassionate. It wasn’t that he was vindictive or consciously cruel. Let’s just say he was far from warm and affable. For what it was worth, to his benefit he remained coldly consistent. His demeanor primarily focused on facts and the mission, never taking the time or caring to make friends or warming hearts, but he made a conscious and overt effort to only show himself as precise. Even though secretly, inside his cold-as-ice heart, he would have relished the role of being some sort of Mr. Spock, envisioning himself gallantly and loyally on the bridge of the Enterprise with a lightning-quick mind, calculating and factoring out precarious situations and giving to his superiors the choices. In his case, Bill wasn’t appreciated by most of his contemporaries, except by the one man the one who really counted: Harry, the one man who really needed him. He never showed any burning desire to be one of the guys, to hang out, to share a beer or a tale. All that mattered to old Bill was the well-worn remnants of his military past, his personal organization habits and unwavering dedication. He only ate out of the hands of those that fed him and only kissed the asses of his superiors and anybody else’s ass whom they thought he should kiss.

Back in Hawaii, Lucky used to call guys like him pigeons, “ya know, the cock-suckers . . . they eat from the hands they think that are above them and shit on the ones they feel are beneath them . . .”

To his credit old Bill was very-very thorough especially when explaining to Luke how to get back to the fairgrounds via the bus from San Juan, which Luke would have to take the next morning in order to meet Gary. Remaining true to his character, it was as if old Bill relished a chance to show the way — but that was it. He sounded almost sincere as he weaved his hand serpentine like zig-zagging — directing Luke through the pueblo towards the bus stop. After giving the ever-so-precise directions Bill just went back to his de-caf not caring to participate in any more conversation. He didn’t seem to have any interest about Luke . . . about where Luke came from, or what capacity he might fill for Harry. At his age he gave time and spoke with too many nothings, or to those that he considered as jejune dead beats. Old Bill was tired.

At 6:00 a.m. the alarm clock Luke purchased in California startled him out of a sound sleep. He looked around the shabby apartment’s bedroom. None of his yet-to-be-seen roommates were in sight. He showered, dressed, and moved out alone into the still dark pueblo, keeping the course while following Bill’s directions precisely. It was cold and his Hawaiian sweatshirt couldn’t hold out the morning chill. He found, with Bill’s explicit instructions, the deserted Sunday-morning bus stop, a tin-roof shanty, held up by metal polls, polls with bases that were sloppily cemented into and beneath an unpaved sidewalk.

Soon enough a bus’ headlights bounced in the darkness as it rumbled toward him. The noise created by the doors opening created that “swoosh” sound, the same swoosh all bus doors seem to make while opening from Ocala to Oslo. Luke stepped-up.

Diga me.”

Luke froze. Not being able to grasp onto any sense of the utterance; he frantically searched his mind.

The driver in all actuality said, “Talk to me.” A Spanish slang.

“Expo! . . . Seville!” Luke blurted, almost choking on his words.

Luke extended a Spanish bill — one thousand pesetas.

The driver conceded, figuring out, just by his look that Luke couldn’t habla Espanol. He snatched the bill from Luke and returned to him 930 pesetas in coins, and a small slip—did so with the touch of a grouchy mechanic fixing a flat—perhaps a page taken from old-Bill’s book, but nevertheless the inference indicated that Luke was on his way to Seville. With slip in hand the rumbling bus had Luke swaying and staggering down that aisle making his way to a seat.

It was the first time since being in the country that he found himself alone with a group of Sevillianos. The autobus as it’s called in Spain, tapped danced down the pueblo’s bumpy, cobble-stoned calles.

Once seated Luke tried to look out the windows into the pre-dawn dark. He couldn’t see much and could only make out that the bus was red, and only doing so from the illumination given off by the bus’s interior fluorescent lights. Instead of gazing at the non-existent scenery Luke focused his curious attention toward the people.

They were mostly old-folks. Luke summed up they were probably on their way to some mundane job or church. Could be they were off to visit relatives? In Luke’s eyes they didn’t appear to be Spain’s elite.

Spain’s elite didn’t take the bus. Their clothes showed as very-clean and well-pressed, yet tattered with threads well-worn appearing as old-fashioned. The majority of passengers were ladies —senioras, little-old women, shrunken fragile and oblique; “Fellini-movie types.” They were smothered in veils of black, a suffering black, from the tops of their woolen scarves covering much of their wrinkled forlorn faces, with spotted skin, along with dismal, rumpled gray hair, while planted into tied-tight, high-topped, old-ladies shoes. Ebonites they were, stooped over by age.

Luke’s eyes zeroed in on some of the younger ones who seemed to flash more fashion sense and their happy feet were stylishly slipped into what seemed to be faddish, blue, cheap, leather-topped clogs.

The sprinkling of the old included almost-worn-out men in wool suits, with Broad Street, wide lapels, faded white shirts while choked at the neck by equally wide, laughable, drab-colored ties. The ties appeared as those worn by tough-talking wise guys, in old black-and-white gangster movies.

More Spanish filled the air, a non-comprehendible symphony of rumbling voices, confusing Luke, and matching with the rumble of the juking autobus.

Luke noticed a boy, about fifteen to his left, across the bouncing bus’ aisle. The boy was checking out the crowd every bit as much as Luke. The bus began to fill-up during many stops while still with-in the boundaries of the small pueblo.

Soon enough it was standing room only. A heavy-set elderly woman carrying an over-loaded shopping bag inched up the aisle and had to maintain her wherewithal to keep her balance. She finally reached an open area and took a moment while one handling the people pole nearby. The packed bus bucked its way and violently jolted to its left or to the right, brought on so by the driver while dodging deep-rutted potholes created by the Spring rains.

Luke overheard the boy across the aisle, overheard him saying something toward the gripping-to-the-pole old lady. Luke observed how the boy graciously slipped out of his seat, and it was obvious to Luke that he was politely offering his seat to the seniora. She gladly accepted.

She plopped her girth down, ruining a morning snooze, belonging to a young woman who all-of-a-sudden found next to her the big woman. Once the old woman was firmly situated in her bequeathed seat, as she further annoyed the commuting woken up woman by jostling about her good-sized shopping bag and pocketbook. With much fanfare she brought the pocketbook to her lap. She let out from its hiding place a small, snap-type, sow’s ear purse. Carefully and deliberately she undid the purse’s snaps, reached in and slowly pulled from it a gold cien.

Perhaps forgetting to smile she presented the polite, seat-giving-up joven a generous bote. At first she lifted the cien up and held it out with the reverence the same way a mass-saying priest doles out Holy Communion. She offered the propina to the boy. An expensive bus ride perhaps, when compared to the fare, but in her view the procuring of the seat was well worth it.

In her heart she may have been disappointed and disgusted; “who would have ever imagined, a day in Spain, when an elderly woman be obliged to tip . . . for what should have been an automatic—a what-used-to-be a gracious act of Andalusian chivalry.” She was grateful. She may have conjured further by offering the tip . . . she just may have instilled into the young man that there still were rewards for those who put-out.

The boy accepted the cien. He smiled politely and said, gracious. He then cast his brown eyes downward with humility, perhaps not wishing to bring additional attention upon himself. Shyly, but with a defining confidence, he maintained a cute downward smile while keeping his balance

An old gentleman beamed observing the boy doing-the-right-thing. The old gentleman, bald with strands of hair swept back, as if he combed his hair with a wash rag in his own drab-colored, wide-lapel suit and wide tie continued to smile approvingly looking around to see if anyone else noticed the gesture. After receiving a few affirmatives, even one from Luke, he smiled more at the lad as he finally got the boys attention.

Other men remained seated. The old man took into account that those other men too were in the vicinity. More than enough time lapsed for anyone of them could have made a gentlemanly move, but none did. He admired that the boy took the initiativehaving the savvy to show-up the other men who were either asleep at the switch or too selfish to offer the lady a seat. The man said something to the boy — in Spanish of course.

The boy answered in quick fashion and in a polite manner. Luke gave the boy the once over. The boy wore faded, from many washings, what-were-once, dark, olive-green khakis. They were nicely tailored. The pants despite being faded were pressed with care, arrow sharp, as was his white, cotton, casual, pull over shirt, with three, wooden buttons unbuttoned to the collar. His hair shined, a youthful teen-age brown, close cropped and stylishly trimmed — neither too long nor too short. The lower back was razor cut straight across at the nape of the neck. Haircut wise, it was good job over all. He didn’t appear as if he were just out of the barber’s chair, a tribute to some barber in Seville. Below the neatly rolled-up cuffs of his pants was a pair of old, athletic shoes, recently made whiter, from being scrubbed by a bleaching process.

The man kept quizzing the boy. According to Luke he could have been asking him anything; about his life, or youthful outlooks, or where he was going, and what he was going to do when he got there. At least that’s how Luke was summing up the conversation. Both offered each other a lot of “si’s,” affirming their inferences. Luke caught the boy’s name, Paco.

The crowded bus motored toward downtown Seville. The old man reached into his pocket fished around and gave the boy another gold cien. He patted him on the head saying, “muy bien, muy bien,” perhaps urging him to continue to be a good example to Spain’s next generation. The man and the boy talked for the rest of the ride while the old lady enjoyed her comfort.

When the bus reached the city limits of Seville, again there was a lot of starting and stopping. Passengers got on and off. Some stops lasted more than just moments and passing time extended to minutes when they could have taken only seconds. To Luke the people seemed awfully slow getting on and off the bus.

Rather than focusing his attention on the painfully slow boarding process and since it was now daylight, he then focused his attention outside. Luke took notice an elderly woman coming outside of a building carrying a small child. Both the woman and the child were following a man who seemed in a hurry, walking away fast. The man maintained a serious look on his face and wasn’t looking back.

By the looks, Luke presumed the man was the father. The kid was crying hysterically. The father after hearing the shouts couldn’t help himself but to look back. At the same time he wore a scowl, a scowl that indicated he must go, as if he was late. The woman marched after the man with the child still folded in her arms, as if she lost control. The braying child was the engine who drove her forward. The frustrated child began to strike out with his fists at the pacifying woman.

Then, like that . . . in no time . . . a guilt-ridden father retraced his once fast pace and was back from across the street. He returned to Luke’s view, and the three were framed out into a vignette as a scene in one of the bus’ windows. The father was smiling. The baby’s distorted face was then smiling. The old lady was smiling. Everybody was happy. The father leaned forward and reached for the little boy’s head so to kiss his baby’s cheeks. His action brought more radiant smiles to the baby boy’s face.

Then the father attempted another clean get-away. The kid, sensing the vacuum, acted up. The father got a good jump. His departure was so abrupt Luke missed it. Luke scanned for him, outside the window on the other side of the aisle on the outside of the other side of the street. The father was halfway down the street. But the poor guy couldn’t help it, but looked back just one-more time toward the love of his life.

The gleam coming from the child was a sign that his eyes linked up with his father’s. The kid nailed him. Feeling helpless, despite being late, for who knew what, soon enough the dad couldn’t resist the lure and dashed back into Luke’s view once again to kiss his son. This time the determined kid transferred himself from the lady’s arms to his dad’s and then he was being playfully bounced tossed in the air by a seemingly carefree, playful dad. Again all three sported radiant smiles. The old woman gleamed, a look that said she prayed countless times for such moments. That Spanish dad couldn’t just walk away from his precious son.

Luke absorbed the tender moment, forgetting about the long-lasting stop. He said to himself, “What’s a few more minutes in Spain?” He felt good. For the first time in a long time he felt real fuckin’ good. His spirits rose realizing, despite being in a far distant place, a place that so far was nothing but frustrating and confusing yet he relished about being in that sort of society, that in retrospect, Spain was a place that so far displayed good manners and a place that flashed signs of parental love. He tried for the moment but couldn’t remember such an instance with his own children.

When most of the Sunday morning crowd filtered out of the bus Luke glanced towards the direction of the driver. The driver’s eyes were searching for him too, through the bus’s rear-view mirror. He dutifully waved Luke off. Luke just followed the pack. The old shopping-bag lady along with the proud old man both limped off the bus and headed in different directions. Luke and the boy were by then with in horde heading towards Expo.

The boy was out front of their pod and he moved rapidly ahead of the rest while cutting his own path. The kid stood out being short-sleeved, without any outer protection against the morning chill. Luke bringing up the rear kept his eye on him. The boy stopped abruptly at a newsstand and bought a pack of filtered Chesterfield’s. Luke was close enough to recognize the brand. A strong brand for a little kid he thought. Just as quickly, Paco rejoined the fast-moving commuters with Luke still bringing up the rear. By then he caught up to the kid and was still trying to get his bearings. He caught a glance towards the kid and said, “Expo?”

“Si, direcion, dos calles, entonces izquierda.” Luke understanding hardly a word of what the kid said, but still caught-on probably due to the boy’s hand signals. There also were some telltale words. The word dos set Luke straight. Luke repeated what he thought the boy said in English, and with his own set of hand signals that re-enforced his intuition. He said it all out loud, but more or less he said it again to reassure himself, “Two blocks straight then make a left, . . . good, . . . gracious, gracious.”

By then it was 7:30, and Luke was already late, and probably he was already on Gary’s shit list. It was an hour bus ride for what was at most a 15-minute automobile trek, and that was door to door. He still wasn’t there yet. He passed by the closed-on Sunday shoe stores and other various commercial establishments housed in old buildings; buildings whose fronts stood on wide sidewalks, buildings that leant up against one another on the wide down-town Seville boulevard.

Cafes were open, serving mostly cafe con leche y azugar, naranja natural, toastada con mantequilla, and pastelierias — the mainstay of the Spanish breakfast. Coffee with milk and sugar, fresh-squeezed orange juice, toasted rolls, smeared with margarine or pate and a variety of pastries were being served-up to morning patrons across the sheet-metal bar tops. The fare was the standard Spanish wake-me-ups. Despite being hungry as hell there wasn’t ample time, then figure, Luke didn’t know the words that would enable him to order such offerings in the first place.

The boy, Paco opened up another lead on Luke and the rest. Both paraded across the huge plaza and past a field of flagpoles consisting of the entire world’s national flags, minus Iraq, Libya, and few other renegade nations. The contrast was apparent.

Carved out of urbanized Seville rose a new city every bit as grand looking as the Wizard’s Oz. The multi-billion peseta, futuristic-shaped, skyline of Expo 92 loomed and gleamed in the morning sun in stark contrast next to the old city.

Built on a dilapidated island in the middle of the Guadalquivir River, across from the tenements, across from the litter-strewn lots, and across from a hodgepodge, sometimes baroque, sometimes Gothic, still decorative, yet it was a Hodge pod of various dated architecture worn down by time.

Spain’s past hardly stood and looked as if the buildings could collapse. Expo 92 shined. Its multi-colored, Plexiglass, steel-formed pyramids and hexagon-shaped canopied terraces were colorful and high tech, if compared to the old granite and sandstone brick structures sinking into their foundations across the river. The older buildings sat unglamorous with a year-after-year thick coat of air pollution clinging to their facades. Most of the older stone and brick buildings were at least four-and-five stories, with caged windows, rusty fire escapes, accessorized in most instances by hanging-out-to-dry wash and topped off with chimneys and cracked tar roofs. Rather than having golden domes of promise or nifty shapes, their roofs sprouted what appeared as overgrown fields of aluminum TV antennas all extended out, bent twisted and turned in multiple directions.

Those new, vast arrays of structures recently erected, and other angled existences insured that at least inside Seville there was some sort of Nuevo intelligence. Of course it was obvious, in order to have taken on such a commitment, there were big bucks backing it all up. The by-then fully risen sun, unrestricted by clouds, cast Expo 92 as an ideal—a utopia ready to thrive in 1992 and do so in a world that over the horizon was run-down, famine-plagued, economically depressed worried world shorn with political strife.

The boy approached Expo. He won and finished way ahead of Luke’s busload of particulars. The sparkling, new, south, entrance gate of Expo, the same one that Luke mistakenly was dropped off at two nights before, was already tooled and set-up for the soon to be human onslaught. Turnstiles, not yet in service, were wrapped in plastic, 25-across, that would soon swing their gates over 80,000,000 times, which would file in and out a herd the human-cattle at 4000 pesetas ($40.00) a clip. That morning though, only two were accessible, accessible only for workers and official personnel. A security guard waved the boy right in. The next group behind the boy slowed down and stopped before entering as to produce their credentials.

Luke inhaled a deep breath and pulled from inside his waist pack his phony-plastic I.D. Nervously he approached the guard on his own.

Paseporte!” ordered the guard in a nondescript way, doing so after scanning the name on Luke’s hand-held credentials.

Luke didn’t make a move and just stared at the sentry in the marooned colored, skycap-like hat.

   “?Paseporte, paseporte?”

Luke wasn’t about to expose his American passport inside his waist-pack that would identify him as someone other than the name on his bogus I.D.

Weakly, while murdering the king’s Spanish, Luke played his hand. He terribly mis-pronounced and wrongly accentuated all his Spanish words with A or EE sounds, rather than O’s. He vomited out, “no hablo Espanol . . . no entiendo!”

It didn’t sell. The guard defiantly shook his head, no.

   “No paseporte, no pase.”

Luke considered arguing his plea. Instead he was as helpless as a baby. There was nothing further he could say. The guard’s back up, another machine-gun totting soldier, a convincing reason for Luke not to get too testy. The memory of the men lying in the street the day of his arrival was still fresh in his mind. He backed-off as to get his bearings. He scanned the outside perimeter of Expo.

Off in the distance he saw more flags and presumed the landmarks to be another gate on the east side, the Seville side of the fair. By then it was already 8:00 a.m. He cursed himself, realizing full well that he was late. He hightailed back across the Guadalquivir River, across the bridge, the one he hadn’t even noticed crossing while tailing and eye balling the boy. The swift moving river’s spring deluge, from up-river, rolled-on in another direction; not giving a lick about Luke’s problems.

Luke by then sprang into a jog. Hundreds of Spaniards with their own agendas made cameo appearances in front of Luke’s fast-moving path. The European images may have reminded one of sidewalk characters perhaps, those on the credits of some black-and-white foreign film. Luke tired quickly while his bulk slowed him. He made out that those flags off in the distance did represent the next gate for sure, but still he had some way to go. Perspiring under his sweatshirt and way out of breath he had to stop running. Yet Luke kept walking fast yet breathing hard. He felt weak. After a hundred yards or so he began to pick it up again, but couldn’t. He was exhausted.

Until then he hadn’t realized that he was that far-out of condition. Christ! He always was able to run. He reached the east gate in 20-minutes. The east gate was indented, and back over another 150-yard span.

Despite his lateness, he marveled how the bridge’s design was so clean in style, drawn at first by some architect and then erected, done so with such simplicity yet its style was complicated. He spent valuable time to stop for just a moment to marvel at the bridge’s design. Simple and yet complex as lyrics one might find in a Beatles song. It was the type of bridge perhaps, that the famous writer Ayn Rand’s protagonist Harold Roak designed in her classic-novel Fountainhead. Luke, again, slipping back into a mind fuck of a panic, began again walking fast with an urgent expression on his face.

   “Trabajadors solo.”

Luke read the Spanish on the posted sign, headed down the ramp, and whipped his card out in front of another maroon-colored, bus-driver’s-capped sentry.

Before the guard could say a word Luke yelped, “!trabajador! trabajador!” Of course, he wrongly mispronounced the “J,” and used an English hard “J” rather than easing out “ha” (traba-ha-door).

“?Paseporte?” It was the same thing all over again.

Paseporte necesitos, senior.” The guard’s decision: no entry . . . Final.

So he was off again. It was 8:30. Reassuring himself that he was doing the best he could, and that it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t have the proper credentials, he moved on. He crossed over the Guadalquivir River for the fourth time in 45-minutes. He reflected for the second-time that he wasn’t going to go ape-shit and blow-it. It seemed silly to have to beg so to get into work. Luke remained determined though, made his way around and skirted the outer boundaries of Expo along the east side of the gigantic fair site. At the next gate, after crossing the river once again, he met the same fate. He must have already walked a two miles. His feet hurt and he was hot. He wanted coffee but more so then he yearned to take wicked dump!

Luke marched all the way to the north end of the fair. He turned left making his way mid-way to the other side and towards the north gate. His effort failed and again it was the same turn down. Well there’s always the west. At 9:20 he hoofed up to the west service gate.

This time he rehearsed his plea in his mind, using explicit Spanish. Luke took stock of all the Spanish words, unfamiliar words to him that so far that seemed spit upon him. After producing the bogus card and getting the same results at the other gates Luke was hell bent and now well rehearsed and he spoke with some conviction, “Necesario, para mi trabajo. No trabajo, no dinero! Mi no paseporte, passporte at casa . . . lo siento! Por favor senior, necesario trabajo!” The word dinero must of came out of some spaghetti western, nevertheless it crossed Luke’s lips and he sounded pretty good but far from being a Spanish speaking maven. He used the conjunction, “at” when stating his passport was “at” home. The guard was hip enough but possessed some sense of compassion and sized up the sorry sight and cut Luke a break.

     “Pase, pase,” waving him through the turn style, hurrying Luke up as if he didn’t pass through the turn style quick enough, the guard might be apt to change his mind.

   “Pase, pase! Manana paseporte . . . vale!”   The gibberish never sounded so good.

Luke chugged up in front of R415 at quarter ‘til ten. R415’s staff was serving the coffee, orange-juice, toast and pastries just the way they did at the cafes on the streets of Seville, but for about twice the price. He found the assistant-manager Kenny busy at his workstation—the bearded, bilingual from Montreal. Kenny relieved Luke’s anxiety somewhat by telling Luke that Gary wasn’t in yet.

Relieved about not being labeled as tardy, but at the same time he was stabbed with disappointed about the fact that Gary was late, and evidently concerned little about having him wait all over again. And he felt slighted, considering the tongue-lashing he took from the punk about being told and scolded beforehand as to be on time or else. He’d been at it, on his feet, shitting razor blades for four-and-a-half hours, and wondered how Harry, Gary and Brady’s casual morning was shaping up so far. All three were probably having a leisurely Sunday morning, eating croissants and drinking coffee on the continent, then taking a feel-good, start-the-day-off-good, dog-leg-shaped dump in the comfy privacy of their own clean bathrooms, from somewhere nice, inside spacious flat in sunny Seville.

Luke gladly accepted the full-flavored Spanish coffee that Kenny graciously offered.

It was really good, full-brewed that rejuvenated him and somewhat erased earlier fatigue. The fortunately, the Spanish, had yet to chintz on the taste of coffee or by watering down fresh cream or whole milk the way they were diluting standards in the U.S.A. The people from the old world were aware that those wet-behind-the-ears, fools-across-the-blue willfully pay more money for products and get less substance. Europeans might wonder why Americans paid more for no-lead gas, higher prices for decaf, and the rest of the filtered down, and sugarless whatever.

Like-father like-son, with Brady bringing up the rear, Gary came strolling into R415 about 10:45. He walked right past Luke and barely acknowledging his presence, as the clod stepped further into the back of the restaurant. He retrieved his own rich, full of flavor steaming coffee, a fresh baked chocolate croissant, and plopped himself in a seat in a booth. Brady sat across from him.

Brady lugged the same large portfolio he carted around the day before. Gary snatched from Brady the large portfolio and opened it. He shuffled some papers. Without raising his head he summoned Luke over with a beckoning finger. Luke miffed with the insolent bastard’s attitude didn’t hide his frustration. First he took his time while slugging down his own cup and then moved ever so slow towards Gary and Brady.

“Sit down, Lucky,” invited the smug Gary.

Luke postponed the opening of their conversation for the moment: “If you don’t mind, Gary, the name is, Luke. I don’t go by Lucky anymore. I’d appreciate it if you just refer to me as, Luke, OK.?”

“Sure, Luke, please fill out these papers. Luke, do you speak Spanish?”

“Barely,” answered Luke evenly but still uneasy.

Luke, after answering Gary’s question stopped paying attention to Gary for the moment, and could no longer concentrate on the idea of answering questions. His eyes moved to the IDs, tags clipped to Gary and Brady’s jackets. Gary Gross, read Gary’s, and Brady Knox , on Brady’s. Instead of hearing Gary’s voice, he envisioned himself walking around Expo 92 with a readable-sized, nametag hanging off his chest. One that would have “Luke Warm” engraved on it.

He gulped down and envisioned all the scenarios;and that long-ago awkward feeling he remembered from when he was a kid. The wisecracks and the smirks once made about his name. He’d have to swallow hard and go-for it. A consolation perhaps, for his already deflated ego was “what the fuck did the Spanish know anyway? Most he came across couldn’t understand or read English.”

“No! You don’t speak any Spanish!” Gary broke Luke’s spell. “Shit! That’s just great.” Gary made a sign of contempt.

“Speaking Spanish is important, Luke! You’re going to have to direct Spanish-speaking workers and mostly deal with Spanish tourists. How do you expect to do a good job if you can’t speak Spanish? Didn’t my father say it was very important to speak Spanish before you arrived?”

Luke went back in his mind, recalling Harry’s original words, two years before; ‘Everybody in Spain speaks English,’ but instead of taking issue with Gary and recalling those original words and promises once spoken by Harry to himself.

“I don’t know. I’m a fast learner.”

“I’m afraid you’re not that fast, Luke. I know you once operated a big-restaurant on Maui and all. My father took me there when I was a kid. I remember you too. You were a real live wire and mostly acted like a jerk, like some loud mouth buffoon. As a kid I didn’t get it. I couldn’t see the big-to-do about your joint. I suppose I still don’t . . . Luke, do you think you can run a waffle stand?”

Now the mouthy disrespectful kid was looking for an ass-whipping, but something handcuffed and held Luke back. Was it fear? Fear of what? . . . After all, he could get out. He possessed a mere grand left on the card with no way of paying back for what was already spent, and a little over a grand stuffed in his pocket. There was more at stake. He wanted to make it. He came halfway around the world and was going to make it all the way back come hell or high water. He was going to walk in and walk out, head held high if he could help it, and besides, he was there at Harry’s invite and not at the beckoning of this fucking pip-squeak’s!

Evenly, in slow, clear, precise language! “As a matter of fact, Gary, I ran a waffle-stand on Cape Cod for two summers. That’s where I met Johnny S.”

Luke went on deliberately.

“Now I want you to know something else, Gary . . . As a kid I too probably thought the same way as you did, like the time you came dribbling into my restaurant while holding on to your daddy’s hand . . . when you were a pip-squeak, and I recall your little ass with spaghetti sauce dripping down ya, as I remember, you had it all over, all the way down the front of your faggot, Ralph Lauren polo shirt, you weren’t too much of a sharp kid as I remember. Still . . . I liked you a lot better that way then the shit you’ve turned out to be.

“And another thing. At one time Gary, I probably wondered, just like you . . . And at times I too was bewildered at a few old fools . . . but that was before I became one myself. See, Gary, we’ve both have thought the same way . . . all this time . . . you and me . . . and we’ve both become fools in our lifetimes . . . Only difference is . . . you still act like one, pal. Yes, Gary, I do have experience with Belgian waffles.”

Gary, acted as if he had not heard or listened to a word pretending he was reading something off the paper in front of him and not displaying any overt emotion and all but ignored Luke’s defensive, face-saving retort.

“Do you know how to season new-waffle irons and all?”

Luke answered the question affirmatively behind his then defiant eyes. He was actually “”touche-ing”” Gary for his cool reproach and for wisely not choosing that time for them to have an ultimate showdown.

“Does an accordion player wear rings?” barbed Luke answering the last question regarding the seasoning of waffle irons, taking on a, “I’m ready to kid around, if you are,” approach.

“Good,” said Gary.

Maybe by then he was getting somewhere.

Luke in a cooperative-sounding manner said to Gary, “Look, Gary, I’m here to help you and your father. I think I can be an asset to your company. Perhaps there are some other guys over here who are ice-skaters. I’ve got a lot of experience and I’m not on any high horse. I looking to work hard and make some good money, money that your father said is available. Some guys may be looking to get jerked-off. Well . . . that may be all right for them, but in my way of thinking I’m here to get-laid . . . Sure I don’t speak Spanish but I think I’ll still be able to get a job done and help you fellows out.”

“Sure, sure,” pooh-poohed Gary. “Give the papers to Brady when you’ve finished filling them out. I’ll get you some help to take back with you to R401. I gotta go. I got things to do.”

Gary couldn’t resist the temptation for new-times sake, and took the initiative to further jab Luke with the name thing.

“Luke Warm, why that isn’t necessarily the type of name that wows the masses, Luke,” said Gary. “Maybe you should have gotten another passport with somebody else’s name on it. Then you could have been somebody else, rather than just Luke Warm. What about Red Hot? How’s that sound?”

Not missing a beat Luke snapped back, “I’ll have to tell your father what an outstanding boy he’s raised, perhaps a chip off the old block. I can almost see Gary Gross’s name on the cover of Time.”

Gary would insist on the last word and throw it from left field. “Oh, I hafta say, that Acura Legend your shyster firm once leased me, now that was something truly lukewarm.”

Luke just smirked at the kid’s lack of sophistication. So that was it, one of the many things that Gary was harboring from the past. He was still sore about the car that his daddy leased for him, and for that, he’d chose now to take it out on Luke.

Luke decided to ignore it all and started to fill out the papers. Brady sat spellbound during the entire Gary-Luke episode. At the cue from Gary, Brady started himself up like a wound-up toy. He interrupted Luke while he was filling out more papers and started showering him with additional papers one after another.

“Here we have our cash-register sheets. They need to be filled out in triplicate. Here are your schedules . . . triplicate. These are target-sales. You fill in here your business projections, business, tickets, average-per-ticket so-forth-and-so-on. Here’s your food, order sheets, and here’s others for paper goods. Take your beverage order slips. Here’s a list of all the phone numbers for the naves and the other restaurants. Here’s Harry, Gary and my cellular numbers in case you don’t have them. This is your employee-evaluation report. Oh yeah, these are important! This is your managers-meeting note pad. You’re to make notes of the discussions, and there’s a check-list for you to mark off after you’ve accomplished the goals set at each meeting.”

Like some sort of mortgage banker, Brady unloaded on Luke more paper work. Without Gary around, Brady went into his own restaurant management philosophy. Evidently his family owned a string of family restaurants in the Great Northwest. The family sent Brady off to college as a boy and expected to get back somewhat of a man for their money. . . One man didn’t come back home. However they fit the inept twerp into the family business and crowned him with an ill-fit paper title. Soon enough they found out that the congenial, affable Brady didn’t have a lick of common sense. The middle-management guys blew a sigh of relief, when he asked for a year’s leave-of-absence while he helped out his college-buddy’s family at the upcoming World’s Fair. Once again the family and the management staff hoped that just maybe, that some miracle might ensue and this time a restaurant-man might just return from Europe; and not someone who up to that point who was perceived and capable of fitting himself into the profile of a twit — an egg-head, who would probably be comfortable wearing a “beany” with a plastic propeller spinning on its top.

Brady insisted that Luke read a few paragraphs from his restaurant manager’s bible. It was an almanac filled with the Brady philosophy. He eagerly mailed away for the almanac after looking into an advertisement on the backside of one of those restaurant-business magazines. Brady having no idea, or for that matter he didn’t have the attention span or interest to appreciate Luke’s own vast cavalcade of experience. He went on, like the fool that he was, and preached to Luke about the needed structuring of the WWF.

The ass-licker Brady held up his forearms and pointed the tips of his palms together, forming them into a triangle, and said very sincerely, “Most organizations are triangular. The power usually comes from the top and filters its way down. This philosophy is proven to be very disruptive.”

Brady, then full of himself, settled into a pedantic comfort zone soothed at the sound of his own voice while presenting his own platform, and there was Luke trapped as his sole audience. Feeling ever so clever he began smiling as he spoke. “Our philosophy at this fair will be where the power extends up from the bottom. No manger is any better off than his lowest employee. First we make the people at the bottom happy and then the management at the top will get well-taken care of . . . ” He went on and on, drunk with his own bunk and dribbled out more hog wash, stoned on his logic and moron wit with his idealistic bull crap.

Luke paid no mind to the idiot and let him keep on babbling and continued to fill out the papers.

With Kenny in the lead four girls strolled to where Luke and Brady were sitting.

“Here’s your help for the day. These gals will probably stay on with you once you’re open down at R401, Luke. Let me introduce them. This is Minole, Isabella-Marie, Silvia-Jose and Inez-Carmen.”

Luke, as difficult as it was for him, broadly smiled for the girls. He gave them a once-over. Kenny left, the girls stayed put with their arms hidden behind their backs.

“Brady, I’m going down to R401. Do you have anything more for me?

“Good, see ya latter.”

The pleasant-looking girls appeared ready for orders. Luke’s body language did a “follow me,” and the troupe made their way towards R401. With the key handed over the night before Luke opened the door to R401. The girls without any prompting moved to release the metal latches so to open the steel-louver shutters and letting in the sunshine. Within moments they crew out-fitted themselves with mops and water-filled buckets with detergent and began to clean. The Spanish women, with a cleaning instinct Luke couldn’t recall ever witnessing, attacked the dirt and dust with vim and vigor. With the coordination of an America’s Cup sailing team they sanitized the entire restaurant. Luke didn’t have to say a word. For the sake of establishing leadership Luke pointed to nooks and crannies that spots needing touching up. The girls complied without hesitation.

He examined the new equipment. Two IBM., state-of-the-art cash registers — an automatic orange juice machine — a Taylor, soft, ice-cream dispenser, a bank of waffle irons, a Wolf grill, and a Weegie convection oven. It was good stuff, high tech. The standard soda and beer taps were firmly set in place and there was a good-size, walk-in refrigerator not yet cooling without the flow electricity.

Not yet opened boxes were stacked ceiling-high, packed with plastic-ware and paper-goods. Condiments supplies; such as packets of sugar, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise and more yet identified goods lay ready. Canned fruits and juices sat in other boxes yet to be stocked on the freshly painted shelves. Besides, the shelves needed to thoroughly dusted, sponged and wiped down. The counter was made up of a fancy, swirled-patterned, black, Plexiglass with stainless steel molding that easily smudged.

Luke joined in rather than just hang out.

Maria-somebody, said to him, “mucho limpia.”

Luke surprised himself with a clear-sounding, “si.”

Trying to make additional room Luke decided to relocate all the boxed-goods into the not-yet-operating walk-in. Luke and the women schlepped the boxes. The walk-in refrigerator had plastic-strips hanging at its entrance from ceiling to floor; to keep in the cool air once it was operating.

Every time, Luke and the others while transferring the goods from the front to inside the cooler as passed through the hanging-strips of plastic, cooler insulation to hold the cold in, hanging from the cooler’s ceiling to the floor, the dangling plastic strips stretched over their faces and fingered their bodies. They moved in and out of the cooler, one person at a time, like cars going through a car wash until they made their way all the way in or all the way out.

The newness of the strips set off a gluey-synthetic odor far from pleasant. Luke held his finger and thumb over his nose and said “P-U!” not prompting the reaction he might be expecting and not sure the women understood his “hold the nose” translation?

He further rat-a-tat-tatted up on his language translator the Spanish word for stink. “S-T-I-N-K.” It wouldn’t register on the translator so he punched-out the word “smell.” . . . Olor!” mouthed Luke.

Si! Olor, muy malo.” The girls affirmed saying, “malo.” So “malo” meant bad. He was learning. Luke began to employ his English to Spanish hand-held translator more frequently. From then on each time Luke desired to make point he’d refer to it and punch-out an English word. In most cases . . . presto! . . . Like magic . . . its Spanish counter-part would promptly flash up on the mercury screen. The girls too acted in awe of the translator.

Every time he employed the gadget they’d huddle around him and the translator to watch and marvel at Twenty-First Century technology. They soon found out for themselves some of the similarities between both languages. Their own curiosity and intelligence began to recognize the similarity as they made-out some of the English words, understanding the comparisons to Spanish before the words turned electronically from English to Espanol. Education in Spain was becoming a two-way street.

The work went well and into the afternoon. At one moment Luke felt as if there were a pair of eyes on his back. He turned. It was Paco, the boy from the bus. He stood at the restaurant’s entrance.

   “Hola,” he said with a boyish grin on his face. Hola the everyday greeting was unbeknown to Luke up ‘til that moment. Hola’s the informal “hello” that’s uttered millions of times a day all around the world. Hola sounds like “O-la” because in Spanish, the “H” is dropped. The traditional “buenes dias,” buenes tarde” and “buenes noches are formal. “Hola” just means: “hi.”

Luke replied, “Hola.”

The boy sort of shuffled his feet indicating that he only wanted to hang around. Some of the woman recognized him and they gave him sisterly smiles.

   “?Paco, si?” reaffirmed Luke.

“Si, senior,” answered a polite Paco.

About a half-hour passed, the boy divided up his time equally with each worker lending a helping hand. Luke stopped his work and pulled out of his pocket another Spanish ten (1000 pesetas). He summoned Paco’s attention. “Coca Cola,” Luke ordered, pointing to himself. “Dos, tres, quartro, cinco and seis. . . Luke pointed towards each girl and ended his count with his finger aimed at Paco. He was glad he didn’t have to count past six ‘cause he couldn’t say seven. The kid picked up on Luke’s “I’ll buy, if you’ll fly.”

The kid took off and returned shortly with six cans of soda from one of many vending machines already operating on the site. The cost 150-pesetas per 12 ounces of Coke out of a machine yet if compared, the 250-pesetas for way less than that amount for the watered-down Coke mostly filled with ice from one of Harry’s already opened joints.

Of course, Paco who was no rookie when it came to buying Cokes knowing where to go when buying, but at the same time was aware that placing of coins into a machine was always a gamble. Paco beforehand viewed Expo employees ferociously pounding on most vending machines trying to retrieve their lost-forever money. Paco took his chances. He lost. Two times the machines ate his money but when he returned with the cans, he never mentioned a word to Luke about the machines eating his money. He made the difference up on his own. He even provided Luke change.

Luke, after quizzing Paco, found out that he was actually 13 and not the 15 Luke thought he might be. He was mature for his age. One of the girls, Inez, who spoke some English, told Luke Paco was her pueblo’s young enterprising bumble bee. He shined-shoes belonging to Expo businessmen and the boots of the military police plus sold American cigarettes to construction workers on the site. Paco also operated a small-time, refundable, litro-sized, beer-bottle business. Inez told Luke, the boy was perceived by her pueblo’s villagers as, neat and nifty, and very particular about his appearance. Luke learned that Paco was somewhat mysterious ‘cause nobody knew the location where he stored his work-tools, the shoe-shine kit, or where he stashed the mother-load of cigarettes and empty beer bottles. Inez also informed Luke that Paco lived with a grandmother, since his parents died in an auto accident. She mentioned that she was told by a reliable source — a girl who lived next door to Paco’s grandmother, that he took care of his own personal grooming, including his clothes. She said that the boy always possessed his own money but he defiantly was no thief and at the same time; Inez would personally validate his honesty.

At six o’clock the four girls bid Luke good-bye. One by one they filed out of the then, “you could eat off the floor,” well-scrubbed, restaurant. Proud of their accomplishments they pleasantly bid Luke a “manana.” Thanking the women with help from his pocket translator he instructed the girls to return there the next day to continue to further ready the kiosk. The girls with their index fingers pointing downward said, while echoing one another, “?manana aqui?” (tomorrow-here). It was dawning on Luke that within the structure of the Spanish language, the Spanish placed adjectives or adverbs after the noun or verb rather than before it. Luke thought about that way of speaking even further.

“Maybe that’s why!” Luke contemplated, that in the past, Europeans sounded as if they were speaking bad English. They always sounded so awkward to him. Something such as; “the man good” was one of those weird sounding phrases, which foreigners so painfully squeeze out. Luke measured and then cursed his own lack of sophistication. Here all the time “the man good” wasn’t even a question. He’d have to remind himself in the future, that from then on, while he was trying to speak Spanish, he’d place the adjective behind the noun. He never considered the plural and singular aspects of speech. It would be difficult for the guy. Luke was a 45-year old who wasn’t so sure about his own English, let alone function in another language. “Shit!” He was exasperated. Wasn’t there a pill he could take? Couldn’t he be hypnotized? Wasn’t there an easier over-night method? Luke thought further if only he could achieve the baby-talking grammar of a three-year old Spaniard, he’d be way ahead of the game. After all, the baby had a three-year jump on him.

Luke and the boy hung around the kiosk while doing some final touches. Out of nowhere, through the kiosk’s door came Gary, with Brady in-tow, still lugging onto his over-weight portfolio.

“Great job!” Gary said while looking all around, hands on hips with an approving smile..

“Great job!” echoed Brady, with the dork placing his own pudgy hands on his own pudgy hips.

“The place looks good! How did the help do for you?”

“Just fine, they hardly needed any supervision.”

“One thing about them spicks, they’re good for cleaning. It seems to be in-bred in them.”

Luke didn’t reply.

“Who’s the kid?”

“Oh, just some kid who’s been hanging around. His name is Paco. He’s O.K.”

“Well he may not turn out to be—so get him the fuck outta here. I don’t want any kids hanging around.”

Luke answered slowly but not sincerely, “OK.” affirming Gary’s policy not that he wasn’t going to bother to say anything to the kid, and didn’t.

Paco caught the drift and eased himself on out the door and hung-out across the walkway near the not-yet-opened Zaire pavilion.

Satisfied that he secured R401 Luke returned back to R415, where he began his morning along with Gary and Brady.

Johnny S’s truck was backed-up to the rear of R415 where he and some workers were un-loading it. They just begun.

As they approached R415 Luke remembered just how sumptuous that Spanish coffee was going to taste and looked forward to a fresh cup.

Gary broke the walking silence, “Luke why don’t you give these guys a hand un-loading the truck.”

Johnny standing at the rear of the truck and within earshot of the approaching men said, “That’s alright, Gary, we got it.”

“Why don’t you let me say what’s alright, Johnny? . . . Look, Johnny! I want to get your ass back to the warehouse wiki-wiki!” a Hawaiian term they both understood meaning: fast. “You have more loads to bring over for R400, 401 and 403. It’s gonna take you half the night. Take all the help you can get willya.”

Luke made out that the goods being unloaded off the truck were perishables such as vegetables and baked goods. He heard Gary mention that his restaurant R401 was going to be one of the drop-off points.

“Say, Gary, are you sure you want to have those perishables delivered to R401? I mean, we don’t have any electricity yet and I’m afraid we have no way to refrigerate those veggies. They could go bad.”

Gary seemed annoyed by his interference retorted, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll deliver ‘em anyway. You’ll have the electric company turn it on tomorrow. Besides, we have to get the stuff out of the warehouse. Expo’s quality control guys are inspecting us tonight and some goods that we have in our inventory are unauthorized. So live with it. Go ahead, give Johnny a hand.”

Before leaving the men at the truck Gary reminded Luke about the ten o’clock meeting at R403, “Ten sharp . . . don’t be late . . . the way you were today.”

Evidently Gary queried Kenny about what time Luke made it in. Never acknowledging the fact that he himself was over three hours late. He acted as if he could have cared less if Luke waited ’til the sun no longer shined. Gary, with Brady on his leash headed towards R403.

“Now, there goes two, sorry-assed, cock-sucking, mother-fucking, ass-holes!” spit-out Johnny S. as the bossy duo made their way down to probably harass the staff at another restaurant. Both were already punching up numbers on their cellulars.

Only Luke and Johnny understood precisely Johnny’s curse words. The three, non-English-speaking Spanish workers, who at the same time were helping Johnny unload the truck nodded in agreement. One of them uttered in a low tone, “jefes . . . muy malo.”

Johnny urged Luke to stop helping and to go have a well deserved coffee. Luke wouldn’t have it. Johnny went on about tweedly-dee and tweedly-dum. “They’re the two, most ignorant, dumbest, mother-fucking white men on Earth. I don’t know why I put up with their petty-ass shit. It’s been a year.”

Regardless, with all of his ranting and raving, Johnny S. still flashed a mischievous smile on his face. It was as if the miserable situation was within the bounds of his game. He’d play along. Now and then his extemporaneous outbursts made him feel a lot better. Luke remembered back, how Johnny S. was always a tireless worker and sharp. He also remembered how Johnny, even as a kid, was not one to take any shit. Johnny loved the challenge and at 37, he still was a workhorse.

“At least tomorrow while all those fuck-heads are having their meeting I’ll be surfing down at Tarifa.”

While in Spain he still surfed.

“So, Johnny, here in Spain you’ve scammed a surf-spot?”

“Sure as shitten, Brah! . . . Mo, the kid and I zoom down to the ocean when ever we can so I get in a good afternoon of surf. I’ve found a couple of super spots. It’s just me. It’s no Hawaii or even Mantauck but there are waves, brah.

Johnny held up his work for a moment, “Well, Luke, I suppose it’s just like old times. Remember when we worked for those crazy Schwartz brothers? Why they made these guys look like choirboys. These guys are nothing compared to them . . . Remember? Only thing is, the Schwartz brothers were a lot smarter, if not bigger pricks. They made big dough. So did we. We’ll see about these guys. All we have to do is hang in there, pal, and cover each other’s back.” Johnny slapped Luke on the shoulder.

So much time pasted by and so much of a lifetime occured since they worked together. As young lions they would never have imagined; that they, fast talkers and strong closers, that they would be standing on some dock of a restaurant somewhere in bumfuck Spain unloading vegetables and bread for some fucking assholes! It seemed unbelievable and comically sad. The ridiculous aspects about its realism brought on an earnest laugh from the two men. Not giving a damn for the moment, humor suspended the stark reality of the situation.

Luke was beat. He hadn’t worked a day like that since he didn’t know when. It was around nine and the sun was gone. The chill was back in the air. He had about a mile-and-a-half walk to the bus stop so to make it back to San Juan and the company apartment. Just down the way from R415 Paco jumped out from behind a shrub.

Hola, senior Luke.”

A sight for sorry eyes Luke said, “Hola, Paco.”

     “?Autobus, autobus?”

   “Si, Paco.”

It was amazing he was speaking Spanish!

Luke and Paco walked to the bus together but didn’t say much more. Once off the fairgrounds they retraced their morning jaunt, trudging out the south gate onto Seville’s, Toreno Boulevard heavy with traffic.

Motor scooters and motorcycles weaved their way to the front, moving dangerously between other “pedal to the metal” maniacs, who raced their Citrons and Siats towards the next stoplight. Luke watched from the sidewalk as the traffic flung itself into the swirl of vehicles entering the chaos of the roundabouts, appearing more like an Orion of light beams. Buses and trucks also bullied their way into the flow. Gunning engines, sounds from exhausts, gripping brakes played into the noise of traffic. Sevillianos weren’t shy about leaning on a horn. The bus stop sat along besides a river walkway. Evening strollers were out casually walking the riverbanks. The chock full of people tables and chairs at sidewalk cafes were an indication of brisk business.

They didn’t have to wait too long for the right bus. Both pulled out their 70-pesetas and boarded. Both Luke and Paco stood. Chatter filled the bus. As usual Luke didn’t have an idea what people were talking about. Mothers fussed over their children. Old men and women admired the children. Most of the attention seemed focused on other children. Luke knew that Spain boasted a King. He didn’t remember his name. Kids seemed to rule.

Oldsters approved well-groomed children. In Spain no matter how poor, how children appear and dressed are measurements of good parenting a testimonial of proper care regardless of their social standings. The youth of Spain’s national uniform was to be clean and pressed with combed hair. People didn’t seem to look too much beyond that. Paco signaled to Luke that he was getting off. He gave Luke a brother handshake and scooted for the door.

Fifteen minutes later Luke disembarked the red bus and began a three-block walk back to the company apartment. He was bushed and stiff. His ass was dragging. “Thank-god they have an elevator,” he said to himself hardly having the strength to push-open the large iron-door that separated the lobby from the outside.

Inside it was dark. The light-switch needed to be located by Luke in a hurry and then one needed to move fast toward the elevator, ‘cause there was an energy-saving, lighting device that automatically shuts-off in about 30-seconds. Luke didn’t like it. He found the switch and headed towards the elevator only to find the lift out of order. The company apartment was located on the third floor. All the lights including the ones on the stairway would go out while he was halfway up the stairs between the first and second floor. Luke’s legs ached more when he found out that in Spain the first floor doesn’t actually count and the second floor is considered the primero. Once there he’d have to search out another light switch and scoot up another flight before the lights went out. It also meant he’d drag his sorry-ass up altogether up four-flights of stairs. How many times that day he’d been breathless.

With key in hand Luke rushed the door. He had to piss like a race horse! He just wanted to get inside. The doors of all the bedrooms were closed seemingly as if everybody was already in bed. It was 11:30 p.m. He used the toilet and gently opened his bedroom’s door and found the room dark, and still empty, same as the night before. He was relieved having the moment for himself. He wasn’t feeling sociable nor enthused about asking and answering anything. He struggled with his gut while bending over to untie his Air Jordon’s, now way past broken in with the appearance of scuffed-up veterans that perhaps already played a summer’s worth of basketball on cement courts.

He mustered himself out of a brief trance and shuffled off for a shower. No hot water! Denied what was once an everyday amenity, only half showering, due to the cold, soaking wet and shivering, in bare feat Luke scampered back to the bedroom to dry himself with a towel the size of a handkerchief and with a texture more like sandpaper. Luke set the alarm for 7:00 a.m. this time and got into bed. He lay there for a moment wondering what the hell he was doing with his life. Living-it, he surmised and he shut his eyes.

 

CHAPTER 11

 

After a five-year stint Virgo mustered out of the military as a lieutenant colonel. Over the next 20-years Virgo added volumes to the warped history belonging to the mad lineage of his forefathers. He set new standards for kidnapping, extortion and murder for hire. He no longer affiliated himself with any particular organization other than his own homegrown network of cutthroats and killers.

Flourishing within the seedy ranks, an eclectic crime syndicate with human properties comprised of factions from the Mafia; the Colombian drug-rings, loose-cannoned left-wing insurgents, along with renegade nations and other terrorists. He merely went into business and leased out his services. Virgo became the most sought after hit man of all time.

For two-decades Virgo snaked round the world, eluding law-enforcement agencies while fulfilling clandestine obligations. Flashing expertly counterfeited passports while masquerading in a slew of remarkable disguises. Added to his abilities, to fluently-speak a number of languages. Those assets placed his services in constant demand.

Virgo traveled with ease. Within dark circles he maintained a spotless reputation, of which his less-than-spotless contractors appreciated. He remained punctual and thorough. He never burdened his clients with excuses or bothered to bray a job was too difficult or impossible. He weighed the facts beforehand and accepted no commission he couldn’t complete. He was known throughout the criminal world as the permanent solution.

The disguised Virgo sat in the Parisian train station waiting for Miguel who was two hours late. Miguel Garcia may not have recognized Virgo in his disguise without being obvious. That’s why they arranged for a predetermined signal. Miguel was to seek-out a man who would be sitting on the station’s benches reading the Richard Bachman aka. Stephen King thriller printed in French.

At last!

A little to the left, behind from where Virgo sat on one-side of the two-sided bench, Miguel Alberto Garcia plopped himself down,

Once confident they were not being trailed or watched it was Virgo who broke the silence. He spoke in French.

Virgo queried Miguel about what kept him? Slow trains from the south was his excuse. Virgo said he was going to use the toilet near the newsstand. Miguel was to go into the bathroom and use the last stall. He told Miguel to unroll the toilet paper, ‘til he came to writing. In a predetermined code would be an address. “Read the message and flush it down the toilet.”

Miguel asked, “Why can’t you just tell me here?”

“I haven’t made up my mind just yet which of the three flats that I’ve rented is to be our exact meeting place. I’ll decide the location once I’m inside the stall. Sorry, my friend, I must always be cautious.”

Virgo left Miguel.

Miguel did as Virgo ordered. The address marked on the roll of paper led to a small flat on the Left Bank.

For three days Virgo and Miguel fitted together the pieces of their terrorist, jigsaw puzzle.

The plan, if properly orchestrated, would rip the linens off of Spain’s carefully set table. The moment was near for them to shatter Espana’s dreams. All of Spain’s ambitious plans and its chance for international prestige carefully sought by the New Spain would soon-enough lay in ruin, thoroughly eradicated by a heinous act of terror. As would chances for a newfound freedom permitted under the monarchy of Juan Carlos’s and his democratic experiment.

Virgo, in advance, stocked the flat with provisions. The other two flats had been stocked as well. As earlier indicated, both men were sought after by law-enforcement throughout most of the free world. Both eluded manhunts by both lying low.

They finalized their assault against Seville. Thoughtfully, they played out the possibilities, contemplated, filled in the gray areas, took into consideration the Spanish forces, her Army, Navy, Air Force and a vast assortment of internal police agencies, more-than-likely, surely at-that-very-moment diligently mustering their own resources. They were soberly aware of obstacles.

For the three days Louis Virgo did not sleep. When Miguel became too tired, Virgo would then work solo. He preferred the solitude. He did take breaks and absorb himself in the novel; Thinner.

It goes without saying, that after fifteen years, Virgo and Garcia did have some time for small talk.

Miguel inquired about Virgo’s interest in the American novel and asked about its content. Virgo explained to Miguel, and did so with unusual enthusiasm.

He sang out a concise synopsis how the novel was about a robust, small-town attorney, who while driving down the main street of his hometown, accidentally ran over and killed a transient old Gypsy woman. He went on to describe how the “good-ole boy,” local, justice system quickly dismissed the case along with any negligent charges.

*          *          *

A not-so-forgiving old-Gypsy widower clamored for his own form of justice. Naturally, the grieving, scarf-headed globetrotter never felt as if he received his fair due within the small town courtroom, especially after witnessing the homeboy, folksy-justice system. Not going along with the verdict, the old-Gypsy man angrily waited outside the courtroom and as soon as the vindicated one came breezing out, the old man cast a Gypsy curse on the small-town lawyer.

Just to make it kosher all the way around, The Gypsy man put on additional whammies on the local-police chief and the presiding judge.

That seemed like no big deal. All of them; the lawyer, the judge and cop were threatened by sore-losers in the past. The latest just happened to be in the form of a curse.

Soon thereafter, according to Bachman’s rat-a-tat-tat, the vindicated townie would be forced to deal first-hand with the Gypsy curse!

The lawyer was robust, a two hundred and fifty-five pounder, on a six-foot frame.

At first, when he began to shed excess weight he and his wife appreciated his sudden drop in pounds. Despite a hearty appetite he dropped additional pounds and marveled how a flatter-belly led to his increased energy. He and his wife’s sex-life revved up.

In the novel, after the lawyer and his wife enjoyed a deserved vacation, and after returning, the townie plunged below two-twenty. Perhaps it was because he just came off of 14 days of serious fucking, but nevertheless the weight loss became noticeable.

Both hubby and wife became concerned when he tipped the scales just below two hundred a month later.

Somewhat relieved after receiving the positive results from a complete medical check-up, being declared as fit, yet the shrinking attorney got jolted back to “problemsville.”

He gets wind that the town’s police chief was found dead, as was his longtime-friend, the good judge! Both men met unusual agonizing deaths, unexplained deaths that baffled the county coroner. Both were stricken with hideous disorders, both different, that left their bodies with oozing sores.

The cursed one conjured up the nexus and brought back to mind the Gypsy-man’s threat. Then recalled only too vividly, the last memory of the vengeful facial expression, and the final word uttered by the distraught widower.

“THINNER!” . . . he wailed. The lawyer flashed back to those vindictive eyes. He cringed, remembering the crooked, swollen, disfigured finger pointing directly toward him! Upon such a revelation the lawyer panicked and was overcome with wavering uneasiness, similar to the uneasy-gut reaction he remembered brushing up against him during his trial.

Never feeling fully vindicated, cognizant, when thinking back, he may have been driving a bit too fast. With the not-guilty verdict he was willing to place it all behind him but it was the old man who spoiled his win.

Melting down below one-ninety he became ultra scared and virtually miserable.

Calling himself to action he pooled his resources of intelligence and began a manhunt for the old Gypsy. The lawyer, through one of his seedier clients, hired a Mafia tough-guy. He sub-contracted the thug to find and muscle the Gypsy into lifting the curse. The hired thug was industrious in his own right, used his connections, sought out and found the old man.

To the lawyer’s decreasing displeasure, once found the Gypsy man spilled his guts out, while on the receiving end of pistol whipping session savagely hosted by the notorious henchman; the bad news being that the “thinning curse” was absolutely irreversible, and could not be voided or turned off.”

*          *          *

While reenacting parts of the story in the presence of Miguel, the usually serene and private Virgo, displayed some unusual out-of-character behaviors. Animated and even bubbly, Virgo surprisingly revealed to Miguel, some of his personal desires.

Virgo went so far as to frame how he would welcome such a dilemma, such as the one in the novel. The old-Gypsy man and the curse presented an interesting challenge for Louis. “Imagine, having to contend with such an adversary . . . a wily coyote, one who uses both mystical and spiritual powers!”

He went on to say to Miguel, during his own illustrious criminal career, all of his accomplishments came to be, primarily because of his own contacts; his own patience, his hard work, and his fierce tenacity. With zeal he preached on to Miguel, how insured his own success by exercising his talents skillfully and consistently.

He professed to be in awe of an enemy with the ability to play powerful intangible cards. He further fantasized about himself playing the game, and placed himself in the role of the hired Mafioso character who the “getting-skinnier” lawyer sought out for help.

Virgo, with Miguel as his witness, placed himself in the pipe dream. He, imagining himself cutting a bogus deal with the old-Gypsy man. He’d negotiate. The old Gypsy man would be forced to pass it on to somebody else. Further he would have him share the curse’s secret recipe with him exclusively.

He’d miraculously promise the old-Gypsy his wife back! After all Virgo concluded, “Spiritual people such as Gypsies have faith, and believe in timo, which they consider mastered tricks. He would be sold, and counted-on to have faith in such a feasibility.”

A confident Virgo figured that Gypsies were open to all business propositions and with his persuasive charm. He’d play act and be sympathetic. He’d convince him — he’d bullshit a bull-shitter.

He’d strike a fool proof deal where as he’d obtain all the knowledge of the curse before hand, but at the same time he’d pry it out of the old man prior to producing the old lady.

Insisting “no-ticky, no-shirty,” in the form of an anecdote. That might be the tricky part. Then though, after he possessed a valid lease to the curse, he’d make good on his end of the deal by murdering the old Gypsy man so he actually could join his spiritual Gypsy wife . . . The catch being the reunion would be in the hereafter. He’d keep the curse for his own for use, and for the fun of it, never bother to relieve the emaciated lawyer and he’d permit him to evaporate into thinner air.

Vulgarly, Virgo cackled at his own maniacal thoughts.

It became obvious to Miguel, and un-nerved him, that Virgo was warped along with being captivated by King’s novels. He shared further with Miguel a pipe-dream it might be to someday show up at Stephen King‘s Maine door-step and charm him too. He’d present the author an opportunity, an offer that King couldn’t refuse. Perhaps, they both could collaborate on a novel about Virgo’s life’s work

Then he predicted that he’d also off King in a gruesome manner and leave behind King’s remains in an appropriate place. He confessed to Miguel, “I surely would miss his works . . .”

Then he casually mentioned how he’d dispose of his literary hero’s decomposing body. “Hah! I’d leave him in the trunk of a ‘57-Plymouth’, at some antique car show. Shortly his rotting flesh would stink-up the whole place. “Sir Stephen; an oozing lump of offal! Think of it . . . Looking like a still-born, perhaps in Christine’s trunk; ‘a motorized death womb.’ Or . . . I could have him sliced into 288 pieces, and have him stuffed into a crate, supposedly filled with his novels, sending clumps of him on its way to some Walden Book store in Peroria—a double gross of King! . . Now there’s a novel for you Miguel!”

Virgo aped for Miguel, pretending to pick up an imaginary newspaper and read out loud the imaginary headlines of what he envisioned would be printed on every paper’s front page: Murder Mystery Writer Murdered. The mere thought of such an adventure and its morbid conclusion almost presented him with a hefty hard-on.

For the most part Miguel was a pantywaist. Wanting to hear no more, Miguel tried to change the subject by making Virgo promise not to tell him anymore, saying so, ‘cause he planned to read the book himself. Miguel’s possible interest pleased Virgo. In reality Miguel didn’t really intend to read the book. He masked his not-wanting-to-hear-another-word by promising to read the book himself. The talk of all that killing and mutilating scared him.

Reluctantly Virgo held back, and told Miguel no more, assuring Miguel he was almost finished and he’d be sure to turn it over to Miguel. Virgo kept the story’s finality a secret.

After the three-day, two-man, terrorist convention, and when Miguel emerged from the flat, “Thinner” was tucked under his arm. Once Miguel turned the corner, not-giving-it-a-second-thought, he lofted the novel into a Parisian street-bin.

Virgo never fully trusting anyone, a man full of suspicion, who was always lurking in the shadows, tucked himself into an alleyway, close by and regretfully observed his long-time friend trashing his well-meant gift.

Virgo shelved any sort of vindictiveness and doubts. Then they were irrelevant. He hadn’t enlisted Miguel for his literary attributes, or his lack of sincerity.

He had Miguel’s number for years, knowing all along how he was a coward. It was his fierce political convictions, ability to organize, and mutual hatred against Spain that were the lynchpins why Virgo recruited Miguel confident he would do his part. Still the same, he couldn’t help but be disappointed how his so-called brother in terrorism pretended to show interest. From that moment Virgo held another insight about the man.

Between Virgo and Miguel Garcia they were confident that they’d achieve their mission. It was set between them. They would avenge all who failed before them, a get-evenness for all those who fell, or were captured, and wrongly persecuted. For those slighted throughout Espana’s history they would disrespectfully strip away all of Spain’s pride and honor.

It was decided while in the small flat, that Spain’s day of reckoning would take place in Seville, on July 25th, 1992, “Saint James Day,” almost 500-years to the day since Jose Luis Rocio set out from that spot, for his never to be recorded historical trek, and if one were counting up all the years it would be more than thirteen-hundred years, after the defending Basque forces pasted through the little pueblo of El Rocio!

*          *          *

By 1990 Louis Virgo was wanted by INTERPOLE, the FBI. Scotland Yard and a half-a-dozen other international law-enforcement agencies. Others also penciled him in as high on their list of most wanted. He also ranked high of those who relished the idea, of one Louis Virgo taking them up on one of their own lucrative offers. Within an exclusive international pool of whackos and henchman, Virgo was a number-one draft choice, a bonus baby along with being a franchise maker. At that stage of his life he chose the time, picked his own spots, and named his own price. There were some old favors, some loyalties and a few pet projects.

The Virgos were a breed who for generations abstained from blind loyalty. They made it exclusively their business, “which side of the street” they decided to walk on. By the ‘80s, Virgo disbanded and abandoned his associations with the Black Wing. He was strictly solamente.

Virgo held accomplished credentials as a capable teacher with good communication skills, and an expert when it came to plastic explosives. His death-defying techniques, and chaos causing exploits were renowned. He was paid substantial sums for sharing those techniques by Libya, Iraq, Syria, and some other Middle East, independent, terrorist organizations. In turn he passed on some of his profits to the Red Brigade, and the ETA. There were other organizations partially financed by Virgo’s Marseille friends, the world’s primary heroin connection.

Why?

Because Louis Virgo said so! Without Virgo’s ties in Afghanistan, Thailand and Burma the Marseille heroin trade might not have existed.

Even Israel, in the not so distant past used Virgo, not for murder, but to help arrange so that one of their own Massed agents, could sneak into Turkey, so that agent could murder somebody. A closely guarded secret on both sides of the Atlantic was that he was very much involved in the Pan Am attack over Lockerbee.

Throughout his career he remained a solitary man. His wicked profession satisfied him more than any wife mistress or lover boy ever could. He possessed no desires for cuddling, not even a hug. As for hugs—he possessed a stronger urge—the urge to smother, the sensation that excited him! So, to not stir up any additional trouble, or to attract too much attention he mostly kept away from women or men. No need to stir up the juices of some bloodhound of a homicide detective. When his loins called for it, he’d go out and obtain some either by charm or cash. Those who he let go could consider themselves lucky.

Wealthy by birth, and further enriched by devious deeds, according then present-day criminologist and a notorious bands of criminals, Virgo was in a league of his own. Because of his far-reaching contacts, his lightning-quick mind, and his own daily regiment, a kept fit Virgo was atop of his game.

Once, “one’s name” was on Louis Virgo’s list, they could forget about that new Lexus, or that family trip to the Grand Canyon. For them life was over.

Louis Virgo busied himself during the most of late ‘80s, and early ‘90s. He orchestrated more dramatic hits than Di Niro and Nicholson.

There was the New York Mafiosi. A big deal ruled a neighborhood, inside the borough of Queens. The Mafia’s high council wanted him dead. Their organization’s men weren’t capable of hitting him without an all out assault. They didn’t want a bloodbath for the time.

Decided by the high council for the best results it probably would be more prudent to contract an outsider, a pro. The neighborhood was an armed encampment loaded with informers. Snitches lurked on every corner. Nothing happened in the neighborhood without the thugs knowing about it. Most of the precinct’s cops were on the renegade “don’s” payroll. The rogue don was tipped off. He suspected an attempted hit. He watched his step.

Virgo was on the case. After staking out the fallen-out-of-grace, Mafioso’s neighborhood, realizing he’d be unable to just walk up and blow the guy away the prince of death made his plan. At first, to get closer and observe the movements of the don, Virgo applied for a menial job as a gas attendant, at an all-night station suspecting the Mafioso filled the tank of his Lincoln at the station. His consensus was, that the Jackson Height’s, Hess Station, was the only 24-hours station near-by the don’s hideout. Familiar with the type of hours that gangsters keep, Virgo applied for the mid-night ‘til eight shift.

Virgo owned scores of safe real estate all around the world and controlled vast sums of U.S. currency in Swiss bank accounts. Nevertheless, with much enthusiasm, he shed his aristocratic heirs stooping to become a laborer. As hi hands became soiled and greasy; his spirits rose up to a weirdo bliss, as if he relished the opportunity while spending a summertime in the crud of the city, rubbing elbows with the hoipoloi.

Virgo whistled Snow White’s “Whistle While You Work.” Real folksy-like he mouthed to the station’s patrons, “howdy dos,’” and “yos’.” He pumped gas, checked under-the-hood and cleaned windshields — making them spotless, as he’d bend over and stoop down to check the tire pressures belonging the station’s, inner-city, tough-talking patrons. There was certain satisfaction about, killing them Newyawkers” with kindness.

Confident, the Mafioso’s comings-and-goings might place the don within the confines of the station Virgo worked seven nights a week. He told the station’s manager he needed to provide for a large family. So far, up to that point, he only caught skimpy glimpses of the Mafioso’s Lincoln, as it bullied its way up and down the busy boulevard. One early morning at about 4:30 a.m., the big, dark Lincoln, slowly cruised into the Hess station.

A certain premonition alerted Virgo’s instincts, even before the Lincoln’s tires rolled over the station’s signal hoses! . . . The Mafioso had arrived! Even though his back was turned . . . Virgo sensed the time had come.

If one were able to describe Virgo’s face as he turned, and prepared himself for another mission of death, one would have been privy to a fiendish-glee, a face that could be best described as having the glow of the devil.

From behind the Lincoln’s wheel a fat man let down a dark-tinted, electric window. The air conditioning coming from inside the four-door, Town Car cooled Virgo’s face, as he leaned forward.

Before being able to peer inside a gruff voice halted his lean in!

“Fill it up cuz,” ordered the fat man. Virgo froze a moment, shifting his eyes, while still trying to make out the figures in the back of the car. “Lets go, pal!” warned the big man.

The driver never noticed how Virgo, sneaky-like slipped a Velcro band around the Town Car’s door-handles, handles inches apart, set in the middle of the town car. The driver sent the window back up, satisfied that the schlep waded to the rear of the vehicle to put gas in the tank.

The wise guys relaxed within the safe confines of their bulletproof Lincoln. Virgo continued on the job. He quick stepped around from the rear, came up close to the passenger’s side window. They watched him carefully. Sounding more-and-more like a “guber,” or Gomer Pyle, with a hangdog look he placed his face up close to the window. Virgo stayed cool, and asked in a real friendly manner if they wanted the oil-checked.

“Check the oil, sir?”

For all he knew, their weapons were fixed on him, one false move could unleash a volley of lead. With iron-balls, he one-handed another Velcro strap camouflaged inside an oil rag wrapping it around the other side-door handles. The men inever detected how he finagled the Velcro.

“Fuck a bunch of oil, hick! Just fill it the fuck up, ass-hole! Make it snappy!” came an annoyed and even gruffer voice from inside.

“Yes, sir! Fill it up! Right away, sir!”

Virgo, his veneer still in tack, took his time leaning back off the glass maintaining his folksy-like smile. In lieu of returning to the Lincoln’s rear, he strolled over to the other gas-pumping island. He calmly removed the gas-hose off an idle pump and while gleefully whistling his favorite, new Disney tune, and with dwarf-like animation he aimed and held the hose to the sky and began to shower the tough-guys car with gasoline. As soon as the occupants were aware that the fool attendant wasn’t showering them with a complimentary carwash—they bolted for the doors. They met resistance, but still they frantically pushed, and yanked on the door handles. The five-seconds that the Velcro straps held delayed any exit from the soon-to-be inferno.

Those five seconds were time enough for Virgo to toss a special, pre-gelled, Zippo lighter on top of the Lincoln. The zipped-up, pyro-technique device, which Virgo developed himself, spread the flames over the entire vehicle. Less-folkys-like, Virgo sped things up a bit. He blitzed over to another pump while the Lincoln was taking on the look of a metal bon-fire. He yanked another nozzle out of the gas pump’s “hear-no-evil” ear as he arced another stream of high-octane raining on the roof of the burning sedan.

Struggling, the men partially opened the strapped doors. Seeing a chance for escape, Virgo sent a stream directly toward them. The flames feasted on the gasoline. In the front and back seats, burning men bounced off one another as panic-stricken, gasoline-ignited, human torches, screaming in agony. With incredible force a door finally flung itself open.

One victim rolled out. He no longer appeared human. Instead he appeared as more of an, it, rather than a he. The victim, then a ball of flames, took on the characteristics of blazing tumbleweed rolling towards the curb’s gutter. When it came to a halt, it was no more than a well-done clump, a mass of charred Mafiosi, moaning for mercy . . . for relief . . . begging for death. The rest of them lay back, scorched, barbecued and immobile inside the out-of-gas town car. There was no hope for any of them.

Virgo tossed the pump and made tracks. He realized that all during the goings on he heard nothing except for a humming sound. It was only after the men were almost well done, that Virgo’s ears began to hear the agonizing moans, heart-wrenching cries, agonizing screams that broke the summertime tranquility of the sleeping neighborhood. He giggled inside. He was beside himself while getting away, triumphantly replaying those agonizing sounds inside of his head. He ran swiftly and silently.

After two blocks he slowed to a stroll. He felt assured about his anonymity. His parked get-away car was sitting and waiting. The waiting car seemed to have a smile on its grill, as if a welcome wagon flashing a ‘well done!’ He remained heady and exhilarated. He was giddy and up. He regained his focus, taking caution, knowing that he was still in enemy territory.

That was all right though considering he possessed the essential assets, his gun and his get-away vehicle. He wasn’t really alone either. His buddy was with him? Standing up strong, underneath his gasoline-pumping overalls was his cavalier pal, his buddy, none other than an iron-fisted hard-on! Louis Virgo felt great! Before he pulled from the curb he felt compelled to squeeze himself and did so for a few more traffic lights before he squeezed himself to a release, all over the insides those overalls. Ahh, it felt so good!

*          *          *

On another occasion, about the same time that Lucky was romancing the kid in Vegas, Virgo had been requested to drop everything, and venture to Wall Street. The big boys were concerned. In Indiana, the FBI granted immunity to a small-time accountant, who’d been washing big-time, out-of-state, drug money, through local banks. Seems an Indianapolis banking firm, and the Wall Street boys were hooked-up with a Columbian drug cartel. If the accountant were to spill the beans in court, the accountant’s testimony might put a lot of big people away. Virgo was contracted.

The FBI.’s special witness was held up in a secret location, being kept under heavy guard. On the sunny morning, when the accountant was supposed to drop the names of his accomplices, he was cautiously escorted out of the feds hide-out by a dozen, heavily-armed, FBI. men.

Two sleek, stretch limos waited outside. The FBI., taking no chances, employed bomb-sniffing dogs snoop-out the entire area beforehand. The entire contingent of FBI. departing, including the soon-to-be testifying accountant were dressed identically in blue-blazers, gray-slacks and mirrored-sun-glasses. Matched to size of their star witness, all agents were all about the same height,and build. To the average eye it was impossible to differentiate between the witness and the dozen FBI. decoys.

Storming out the doors, down the steps all squeezed into the two limos. They zoomed away in the look-a-like limos, driven by look-a-like drivers, heading towards the courthouse. Outside the court house security was just as tight. The limos pulled up in front, and the look-alikes quickly piled out, forming a unit, and marched up the marble steps of the court of justice. Reporters, cameramen and onlookers corralled the herd of sunglassed, blue-blazered, slicked-back-hair dozen — leaving behind and deserting the two, limos and their look-alike drivers.

No time was allowed for questions. As the throng disappeared behind the closed doors the rest would have to wait for the stooge’s testimony inside the courtroom. The two limos slowly pulled around to the curbside heading down a ramp towards a parking garage. Because the limo drivers weren’t familiar with the parking garage they didn’t notice that a parking-lot traffic sign was tampered with!

An arrow directing where the limos should park was turned in the opposite direction. The two limos slowly rolled towards two underground parking spots at a far corner of the garage. Mostly everyone upstairs were attending what was thought to be the “Main Event.”

One of the limo drivers was non-other than Special FBI. Agent Wilson; the man given credit by the local media for breaking the case. The other blue-blazered, limo driver was non-other than the accountant stooge.

In unison the FBI.’s Indianapolis and Washington bureaus, after the debacle, still stood behind their witness protection guise.

First, the look-a-like disguises . . . second, trick and indicate the star witness was clumped in the group while exposed on the steps . . . third, by having the star-witness, and the head of security impersonate as chauffeurs.

According to the FBI. they calculated the risks. Detractors accused the agency of being too clever for their own good. Some how their in-house only security cooked their own goose. Rather, if courthouse security and Indianapolis police were filled in about the plan the disaster could have been avoided. Their would have been additional security down in that garage.

It wouldn’t have mattered. A couple of town cops hanging around a boring parking lot wouldn’t have been enough. Just more people would have gotten killed.

Virgo’s rush came when seeing the absolute shock on the faces of the two doomed men. When the FBI. man opened the trunk of the limo, to retrieve his briefs, he received the surprise of his life! Special Agent Wilson, along with the star witness found a crouched, and ready for action Virgo, curled up inside the good-sized trunk. Virgo, with a 25-caliber handgun with silencer attached came out shooting!

Special Agent Wilson never was afforded a chance to say touche, after recognizing that Virgo too was sporting his own mirrored-sun-glasses, blue-blazer and gray-flannel slacks. Appropriate conservative attire for the occasion, after all, he was the preppy-dressed man fulfilling his contract for the winged-tipped shoes, button-down, collar crowd.

According to two eyewitnesses he systematically held out a ramrod straight arm, and squeezed the trigger, pumping lead into the two hearts and heads. He calmly removed himself from the trunk, straightened his wrinkled clothes and made a neat get away.

Just before Louis Virgo made his exit he removed from the inside pocket of his own blue-blazer, two paperback novels. He tossed the novels, one after the other towards his stretched-out victims. Both paperbacks landed on top of them, they seesawed atop the men’s torn-open chests. The men with eyes wide-open, wore the same equal expressions. “I can’t believe this happened to me.”

The paperbacks became hard evidence, along with the cyanide-dipped bullets. Virgo left a message and some raw egg on the face of the straight-lace, law-enforcement agency. Outside the walls of the FBI. no accounts were ever made public, regarding the mysterious paper-back books.

*          *          *

It was the newspapers that first reported the accounts of the bank accountant’s involvement with local banks, and how it was Special Agent Wilson of the FBI. who first broke the case. Throughout the preceding he remained in charge. Indianapolis isn’t a big place, and when a big story such as an international conspiracy hits the streets — about a local accountant — mixed up with big-banks, and big-criminals from Wall Street, and foreign countries — why that’s big stuff, especially in a relatively small, place like Indianapolis. The local press played it up.

Just after the indictment Virgo arrived in town. He missed some of the earlier published editions, so he went to the friendly local library, and on a view-finder he read with interest the news accounts published about the money laundering scheme. He read very carefully about other courses of events leading to the indictments; the arrest, and even the idea about a plea-bargaining deal in the works. The paper went so far to print locations and court dates.

There was more. Somewhere in the contents, every newspaper article was mentioned, that one, Special Agent Wilson was the FBI.’s regional agent in charge. It wasn’t difficult for someone such as Louis Virgo, to sum up that in a place such as Indianapolis — a place where the locally assigned detachment of FBI. agents must be relatively small — a place where someone like Special Agent Wilson would likely remain in charge; probably remaining in charge during the very moment when Virgo was reading about him.

Virgo would focus in on Wilson. He was both grateful and stunned how a clandestine professional organization such as the FBI. could so foolishly expose itself by pulling grand-standing publicity stunts,. All throughout the preceding, it was the FBI. instigating unneeded exposure. They encouraged the press to play up the local office. “Here’s your law enforcement agency at its best.”

With that intelligence, Virgo began to tail Special Agent Wilson. Virgo uncovered where the, (as Virgo would put it later) “Where the never-to-spend-a-day-in-jail . . . too-chicken-shit-to-take-a-rap . . . and as-easy-as-pie-to-take-out, stool pigeon,” was holed up, and he found out where the mole was holed up on the very first day.

By following Wilson he discovered where the star witness had been sequestered, being hidden in a swank-downtown-apartment complex next to a ritzy shopping center.

Having the exact location of the accountant’s whereabouts was certainly an advantage, but Virgo summed, it might prove too dicey, risking an early move. He’d wait. He would concentrate instead, on Agent Wilson in lieu of making a kamikaze raid.

He gained insight about Special Agent Wilson’s work habits. While keeping tracks on Agent Wilson, Virgo picked up on how both he, and the tailed-one, both shared one intriguing thing in common regarding their personas. Both were avid readers. He observed Wilson’s ferocious appetite for paperbacks. Wilson carried with him some sort of paperback all the time. He didn’t keep the novels in his briefcase with the rest of his paperwork. He carried them in the open.

Whenever Wilson went to lunch or dinner by himself, usually at the shopping center’s Harvest House he read. Virgo further concluded, he probably passed idle time reading, while baby-sitting the soon-to-be dead man. Virgo, scoffed about the chump’s reading material, what he considered as syrupy shit being gobbled up by the beady eyes of the goody-two-shoes FBI. man.

By then, Virgo wove a physiological profile. Wilson, a typical-career government agent who swallowed and digested the bunk about patriots he envisioned much like himself . . . dweebs who were trying to “paint a perfect world.”

With Oxford, West Point and Vietnam far behind him Virgo was bored with individuals and organizations with their ranks filled to the brim with that conservative, rightwing, God and country crap.

Just about all of Wilson’s non-fiction reading material went along with those theories. Stories filled with bullshit propaganda, crammed with right-wing logic, stuff that re-enforced Wilson, that the FBI. ways were the only way.

Virgo gave his fiction a better grade. Virgo’s discriminating criticism placed Wilson’s fiction in better critical light with much more action-filled pages than the other bunk. Tom Clancy novels such as: In Search of Red October and An Ever Present Danger showed some imagination. Still they weren’t his cup of tea not like a King novel. Such imagination could never come from a vanilla-ice-cream-cone such as Wilson.

Louis Virgo, doggedly, with turn the pockets inside-out determination, a gum-shoe and a perfectionist who purchased for his own or checked out of the local library every paperback that the agent carried with him for a month’s time.

One particular novel read by the FBI. man; The Price Of Justice sparked Virgo’s interest. The fiction novel, about French Nationals, on trial for treason, just after the war. In the story the French, recently freed from the Nazi’s brought charges against Vichey traitors. The town’s people were all up in arms. Fresh in their minds were the bitter memories from the Nazi’s brutal occupation. Rather than taking a chance on a trial the town’s people were anticipating some quick justice, the kind of justice that included some rope and a tree.

The night before the trial the town’s people formed a human blockade around the jail. “Turn them over to us!” they demanded. The French commander worried events might get out of hand. He feared the crowd might storm the building and he’d be forced to fire on his own people to keep order — plus, not being able to deliver the suspects safely to the courthouse.

In the book’s story, after sizing-up the situation, it turns out that the French commander commanded the prisoners disrobe, having them put on his-own men’s uniforms. He integrated them within the ranks of his own detachment and smartly marched them right out the gate and past the unsuspecting town’s people — more than five hours before the trial was scheduled to begin. The crowd of vigilantes ignored the detachment coming out the gate, giving the marching soldiers no mind and continued to focus their cynosure back inside of the garrison, convinced that Vichey French were still locked up inside.

After Louis Virgo’s uncovered the chapter about the trickery of the French commander he smiled. He had him — he had the goods on Special Agent Wilson. He never bothered to finish the novel to see what really happened. He had read enough of Wilson’s limp-dick-taste in pansy-assed literature.

The rest of his plan fell in place. Right after that discovery Virgo detected some more cracks in the FBI.’s armor. While he continued his surveillance he noticed how replacements, ones who were joining the stake out. The replacements could be described as “one-size fits all types.” In a week’s time, fat, skinny, tall and shorter FBI. agents were gradually relieved. The new one’s were all about five-foot-seven in height. In statue, they modeled that “two-donuts with their coffee” roundness. It was no coincidence the replacements matched the size of their hidden subject. Virgo gathered the accountant’s personal statistics, plus a photo of him, one he cut out of the Indianapolis paper.

Soon thereafter, Virgo couldn’t help but notice how the FBI. men couldn’t resist wearing those new-mirrored, sunglasses, those purchased at the expense of the government. Those shades were especially chosen by Special Agent Wilson. The wearing of the Bucci’s may have been premature. They were originally purchased to make their fashion debut at the big-event. Agent Wilson also was aware the security glitch, and made a mental note. He’d let it slide.

Agent Wilson mistakenly disregarded caution. A more diligent detective surely would have suspected and known that there were tedious sleuths lurking in the shadows of Indianapolis, and they would be every bit as smart and more determined.

Those mistakes doomed the mission. His reading habits and the fact, that he always placed his brief-case in the trunk of whatever vehicle he was riding in or driving, compounded with Virgo’s tenacity brought Wilson down. His most crucial mistake was not keeping away from the hideout occupied by the twit accountant. Wilson making personal contact with anyone involved with the witness protection program should have taken place exclusively from within the privacy of his office. Easily zeroed-in-on by a Virgo, those blunders compounded and contributed to the collapse of the Government’s case and further—cost the agent his life.

One thing led to another. When the tailing became more or less routine Wilson and two of his deputies walked out of the apartment house one day, and went to their usual spot for lunch. After lunch, Agent Wilson and the two others made an additional stop. Instead of heading straight back to the hide out they went some place else.

Virgo, always close-by, sat on a mall bench reading King’s, Misery. From there he watched the FBI. types lugging good-sized, white boxes with a men’s, clothing, store logo printed on their sides: “Bradley House, Men’s Finery.”

Virgo, still sniffing asses an hour later, trailed Wilson and two others back to the same store. Virgo even went so far, to venture into the men’s shop to browse, while the FBI. men were still inside shopping. Modeling for himself, and while trying-on hats, Virgo noticed how the accompanying agents were fitted by an not-so-enthused clerk, with the identical blue-blazers and conservative, gray-flannel slacks.

While at the checkout counter Virgo mingled in the men’s presence. He brazenly fingered items around the counter, leaving smudges all over the sunglasses. He even stepped aside to do his fingering from a foot over so the agent could pay for the three blazers and three pairs of pants. The agent produced a green American Express card.

Virgo photographed the card’s statistics in his memory: Wallace P. Wilson, 3567 3890 3212, card member since 1973, expiration date, 10/19/1992.

Really into the hunt,and very excited about the turn of events he did all that he could do to suppress himself. Right then his killing instincts wanted to forget his main purpose, and go for their throats. He was overcome with a strong urge to kill. Instead, he just craved on the inside. A silent evil simmered inside of his badness. If such an inner growl could be overheard it would have provoked fear and sent shivers down the men’s spines.

Virgo’s demeanor, cool as the Bucci’s exterior, but a volcano was erupting inside. American Express mistakenly showed Wilson’s expiration date wrong! Virgo was aroused with a serious neutron in his pants!

After the threesome departed the men’s shop, Virgo stayed awhile and continued to browse. He approached and questioned the clerk, the one who had been waiting on the three men.

He asked the store clerk in an inquisitive manner if those men, the ones who just purchased the blue-blazers, were part of some sort of musicale group. He told the clerk in a hokey sort of way that his customers looked awfully familiar. He recalled that he thought that they once performed and sang at his church awhile back.

The clerk said, that he didn’t know if they were church singers or not? But in the same breath he revealed that the same man, the one who paid for the clothing accompanied six or seven other men, to the store a few days before and they too purchased identical clothing. Virgo snapped his finger and flashed a “by-golly” grin. He placed a special twinkle in his eye and went on to cackle.

“Golly! I bet that’s them!”

Then he “cockle-doodle-dood,” and put on a real-show for the clerk who started wandering, “who was this geek?”

The “dorky idea” about the FBI. men being some church singing group was the explanation given by the clerk when the store’s clerk was questioned two months later by the investigating FBI.

“How was I to know that FBI. men were shopping in our store?” The clerk complained while the FBI men were lifting fingerprints off of the sunglass shelf.

The clerk went on to say he mentioned the goofy-guy incident to Agent Wilson, the next instance he shopped in the store. The clerk voiced about the weirdo who placed he and his men as gospel singers. He further brought to light something else unusual? He told Wilson, how the hillbilly sounding man, made their blue and grey ensemble a bakers-dozen. He purchased his own blue blazer and gray-flannel pants.

Wilson reaction? The clerk reported that the agent wasn’t especially fazed about the mistaken identity and he didn’t show much concern and he even basked in the light, getting a kick out of the misidentification. “Imagine me being in a church singing group!” he kidded with the clerk. Unbeknown to him he’d soon be in church but he wouldn’t be doing any singing.

Virgo, paid cash for his very own blue-blazer and contrasting slacks. Virgo was a pro. Virgo would have never shopped for himself in a store like that. Virgo was a monster with discriminating taste. He made no further conversation reported the clerk and wasn’t interested about buying the hats or sunglasses, or anything else that he fingered earlier. The FBI never bothered to check out the fingered sunglasses. Even after two months his prints were inches away from the investigating team as they questioned the clerk. Another blunder.

 

 CHAPTER 12

 

Around the same time Luke returned to the company apartment, two floors below, and one apartment over, three men sat around a kitchen table and played a Spanish dice game: “Siete veinte uno” (721). Two dice are slammed out of a cup, the type used while playing backgammon. Any dice rolled tallying a #1 gives the roller the right to continue to roll again. A dice roll coming up number-six and number-one or double-ones are automatically boss, a lock, a sure winner and previous scores from that roll are added up and doubled.

A fourth man sat on a sofa reading “ABC” the Seville daily. The apartment was littered with empty beer cans, water bottles, half-eaten bocadillo sandwiches and dirty coffee-cups. Ash trays were overflowing that might be seen as a flotilla bobbing in an inch-deep sea of battle-ship gray ash. The men rolled, roll after roll — monotonously — not the same way or with vigor — the same way the guys at Lucky’s used to roll. There was little conversation. The man on the sofa—Virgo’s coconspirator, Miguel Garcia–by then oscillated between Seville and Zahara.

Zahara, a one-time sleepy ocean town down on the Atlantic Coast then recently discovered by wind-surfers from all over Europe. Miguel would be traveling down to Zahara that night, later. Miguel remained anxious to get out of Seville. He worried about being identified and captured in Seville so he mostly isolated himself in the apartment. He desired to be away as soon as possible. His photo was plastered in just about every train and bus station, on the walls of all post offices, airports and ports. At least three times a day his appearance flashed across TV screens.

Just the week before, in the Southwest of France, on an isolated a farm, the E.T.A.’s entire ideological branch was raided and arrested by France’s special, anti-terrorist police. With intelligence provided by Spain’s Guardia civil and with the French, who were more than eager to cooperate an international police unit, moved in on the headquarters.

Miguel Garcia was the organization’s only major figure eluding the net, primarily because he was between Seville and Zahara preparing for St. James Day.

The raid was devastating for the organization. With most of their present leaders dead or in prison, the E.T.A. was near nonexistent. For them the timing couldn’t have been worse. The world’s eyes would be looking in the direction of Seville and the rest of Spain that coming summer. Half-a-dozen acts of terror were on the drawing board. The police raid wiped out any chance of the E.T.A. having a banner summer. The organization’s sole operation remaining in tack was the St. James Day project.

During the past couple of years, inside the world of Iberian subversion, enough resources were tucked away to turn one of Spain’s major cities during the Olympiad into another Munich massacre and worse. Details of Saint James Day project were never shared with any of Garcia’s arrested compatriots, nullifying any link towards he and Virgo, except for the fact that they were both very wanted by the law for many other things. Bad things, man.

Their saint’s-day, dirty deed would be so devious that it would blow Bosnia and Somalia off the front pages of Time and Newsweek. Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Andrew and Fergie, along with Woody and Mia’s woes, about poor-little rich peoples irritations supposedly were the stories of the summer. They would be cast back to page eight after July 25th.

If Miguel could forecast headlines, newspapers in late July and early August might report the worse. Europe would stop talking about the referendums concerning a European Economic Community. The sluggish worldwide economy and even the American presidential race would simmer on the back burner.

One apartment above, where the men were playing cards and where Miguel was reading the paper, and one more apartment over, sat a flat whose occupant was one Captain Roberto Gonsalves then a neighbor of Luke’s and the men in the apartment. Captain Gonsalves; dashing and debonair, was an officer in the Royal Spanish Navy. He was on loan from the navy and at the service of Expo ’92. Their security force, a coalition, made up of highly-trained military and police from the nation’s various services but in all actuality it was mostly made-up of the a labor pool coming from Seville’s unemployed. The new force when complete would be over 4,000 strong. Captain Gonsalves’ responsibility dealt exclusively with marine security.

Captain Gonsalves was the country’s chief sonar expert a leader and caretaker of the navy’s national under-water-detection surveillance team. Six months before he was the sole member of that particular branch of the navy. Internationally it was forgone conclusion that Spain wasn’t the same seagoing power as history noted centuries before. Still though, Spain has coastline, 1600 miles of cost line, on both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and not to forget the Azores. Spain maintained an adequate-sized navy.

The fair was bordered by water by two branches of the Guadalquivir river. Precautions were taken. Expo security spent months analyzing possible exposure. Preparing for anything and everything, Expo’s security force played out worse case scenarios. It was strongly suspected, if an attempt came to breach Expo’s grounds, the breach would probably come off the waters of the river. French-made, sonar-detection equipment had been procured and sent off to the fair’s site along with Captain Gonsalves.

So sophisticated was the detection equipment it be able to detect anything coming down the river larger than a trout. Captain Gonsalves’ primary mission was to train a competent staff to man the equipment around the clock.

Despite the crackerjack equipment the mission may have been more difficult than it sounded. The human ear needed to be trained and become both sensitized and familiar with those day in and night out noises cropping up from beneath a living river. Blurps, hisses and oozing from the depths have no set cadence to listen for. The scanning aspects were trickier. The sonar operators would be maneuvered similar to a video game-like control. A roller ball pinpointed as the curser and projected itself up on video monitor. Moving the roller bar with quick, precise, snappy, motions was necessary in order to get a clean sweep. Proper use finds the operator scanning over a designated spot, then meticulously brush-stroking over each spot all the way back to the river banks and then again, back towards the middle. The process, once perfected, would permit Expo’s under-water feelers to search up and down the river for a six and a half mile stretch.

Captain Gonsalves then was the only person qualified to operate the temperamental equipment. The Spanish, perhaps because of their pride, refused the support services of the equipment’s French manufacture. After training Captain Gonsalves the French firm offered to lend Spain their own experts. The Spanish were going to protect their own property and didn’t need Frenchmen to show them how. Decided at the highest levels Captain Gonsalves would adequately train others, but at that time he was the apparatuses’ sole maven.

After fifteen minutes in the presence of Captain Gonsalves it would become evident he was very much a ladies man. He wasn’t much for suppressing his urges while at work or play. He often pressed into the palms of female Expo employees his private phone number. He’d make a Romeo droopy-lipped face and say seriously, “Sometimes I do special, undercover, experiments back at my place . . . maybe you’d care to join me?” Then he’d flash the handsome, irresistible, boyish, smile, and spread the warmth and with charm of a prince guaranteeing that eventually he’d spring out a dick of a dog.

Setting aside his lecherous ways the captain’s time was well accounted for. He spent the entirety of it either listening to the bottom of the Guadalquivir at Expo’s security headquarters, or while slamming home his encased roll of salsachun driving burying it to the bottom of some senorita’s willing pussy inside his flat, in San Juan.

Through their own creepy network of informers Virgo and Miguel knew all about Captain Gonsalves and his sonar. They discovered where Gonsalves lived. Miguel rented a flat just below. They planted moles inside the telephone company. Captain Gonsalves installed two telephones inside his apartment. One was a direct link to Expo. Both phones were tap proof. His personal, phone rung with a distinct higher-pitched ring than the phone connected to Expo, thanks to Virgo who made arrangements with certain people inside the telephone company. The difference was subtle and more than likely wouldn’t be that noticeable by the ear unless forewarned.

The dice-rolling men’s primary mission was much like the captain’s — to listen, to listen for the captain’s phone. If there was no answer he was more than likely on duty at Expo security headquarters. If there was an answer that meant that the coast was clear for the ETA. In order to test the river’s security without him being on duty.

The dice game was interrupted by a high-pitch wail! The men leaned forward and Garcia threw down the paper and rose to his feet. Two rings, then the third wailing ring and then . . . in the midst of the third ring . . . a sudden silence. That was it; he was home!

Miguel Garcia threw on his coat and rushed out the door.

Miguel Garcia, the intellectual perhaps under different circumstances was not the sort of man one might visualize as an international terrorist. He was a frail man. No taller than five-feet four he wore wired-rimmed glasses. Of course he no longer wore the glasses since he was wanted. He looked as if he never exercised a day in his life. His arms were white and flabby, like a teenage girl, who spends too much time eating chips and reading magazines. Also, Miguel’s moves were almost effeminate.

But, when it came to politics or the matters of Basque autonomy he was a ferocious tiger. As an inquisitive youth he read the life stories of the great politicians of the last two centuries, about the likes of Disraeli and Gladstone and Emile Zola, the Frenchman, whose diplomacy and courtroom tenacity rescued Dryfess from Devil’s Island. He was fascinated with the careers belonging to Lenin and Churchill. He couldn’t get over how American and British politicians could say the worse things about each other and later not try and kill one another. When he was young and idealistic he was flabbergasted how the handshake seemed to mend all in America.

He was a good little boy and listened to his intellectual parents tell of his own family’s legacy, a make-up of proud Basque who for centurie fought every neighbor atop the Pyrenees, a Herculean effort to hold onto their lands and culture. All of his uncles and even his frail, studious father fought against Generalissimo Franco during the great Civil War of 1936. Other Basques eventually sided with Franco when Franco promised them some sort of autonomy if they allied.

Once Franco crushed the resistance and wrestled control away from the coalition forces all promises of autonomy went by the way side. The Garcia’s scolded their cousins with, “We told you, sos!” and scoffed at any other ‘patch thing up’ notions being advertised by the fascist Franco toward the Basque forces. His Uncle Pablo was the best storyteller, the one uncle who participated in many actions. Uncle Pablo recounted some of the glory and proudly told the young reader how he fought next to the great British writer, George Orwell. And he went on to say that it was only after Orwell was wounded and deserted their ranks to go back home in England did their campaign wilt. Uncle Pablo said he learned a valuable lesson from Orwell’s mishap. Despite the fact that Orwell was a great leader, without fear, and one who flashed meritorious qualities yet he cracked under the horrors of war! Uncle Pablo witnessed Orwell lose his intensity and desire to lead or win for that matter once wounded. Once exposed to the carnage Orwell flashed no stomach for the pain, sacrifice or the will to continue the fight. He returned to England and onto stardom. They were left alone to face Franco’s own Black-Wing.

Miguel read every word of Orwell’s “1984” and he read twice John dos Passos’s, U.S.A. by the time he was 12. He ingested more serious works of fiction and listened to fascinating stories. While Louis Virgo studied medicine and fantasized a life of crime, Miguel absorbed tales of personal challenge. He became engrossed reading about stalwarts with the courage to challenge unfairness and tributes written by authors such as Ayn Rand. Other American works of literature became his favorites and he further engrossed himself in books such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. After reading some of the more repressive works he grieved for the protagonists anguish and grieved especially for his people whose ideals had been squashed under the heavy heal of Madrid or Vallencia or Grenada.

It seemed to him, through a stormy history, it was always others doing the iron-fisted dictating. After his family was exiled from Basque country in 1955 the young boy was on his way to become as bitter as his ancestors. He didn’t let those hated entanglements completely debilitate him; he did well in school, he temporarily cast his Spanish brooding aside while strongly pursuing his studies. As an extraordinary student he qualified for a French governmental educational program aimed at minorities. Miguel received choices to where to continue his education. Escalating upward, attending a high school for gifted students in Lyons, and then Garcia attended the University in Paris. Because he qualified for a United Nation fellowship was afforded a splendid opportunity, an opportunity to go abroad.

He qualified as a Rhodes scholar. At Oxford he became acquainted with Louis Virgo, and as he would state later he found at Oxford a Spanish-speaking, nice-looking, polished, aristocrat. The young man was an imperialistic by-product whose address was both Port-o-Prince, Haiti and Ocala, Florida.

At Oxford, during a vulnerable moment, rare for Virgo, he revealed his deepest hatred, deep-seeded toward Spain. Miguel harbored similar sentiments and obliged himself to join forces with his fellow Hispanic.

The two youths were outcasts yet maintained one thing in common. Namely, they were tagged as two, disenfranchised Spaniards, who detested Espana. Soon after their union they shared views paid attention to the news and studied together. Together they spent hours arguing and contemplating. Eventually they pieced together and formulated a complex pipe dream, a pipe dream about becoming the very ones who would orchestrate proper vengeance. With crazed, idealistic, goals in mind, the two brooders perpetuated a condescending attitude towards most of their peers.

Louis hit home when he explained to Miguel about some of the background that went along with his own lineage especially when he told him the tale about the Virgin of El Rocio, about Julia, the Moors and the young Basque leader. To Louis’ surprise, Miguel then told Louis a familiar sounding story. Ironically the story; a young leader from his peoples’ pueblo, way back, supposedly died in battle against the Moors, in the south and was considered a hero by an unknown southern Spanish pueblo. It was said, that this so-called, young, Basque leader also carried into battle warm sentiments given to him by a young virgin who he’d never see again!

It was all too familiar! Neither heard anyone else tell two different versions of the same story.

In the eyes of the illustrious Virgo family, their vast fortunes were considered pale when compared with what they may have attained if given their fair due. Those comparisons and the bitterness brought on by the Virgo’s exile seemed forever pitted against Spain’s grandiose achievements. The Garcia’s felt spited too, perhaps for more obvious reasons.

They were linked. In addition Louis Virgo was Miguel’s protector. Oxford was the sort of place one wouldn’t expect to find fisticuffs. Miguel maintained a sharp tongue but didn’t have the muscle or the courage to back it up. Down deep, he was a coward and he realized it. Arming himself with uncle Pablo’s stories of valor, he fanaticized about delving out his own exploits but at the same time he doubted himself. Sadly, he was sure if such a situation arose, he suspected he’d have a hard time mustering up enough courage to carry the mission through.

Miguel’s awful and sassy mouth insulted just about everybody. One time he said the wrong thing to the wrong Oxford man. The Englishman grabbed the little sass by his collar and in a not so Oxford-like manner threatened to rip his weasel’s throat out.

Virgo, quick on the scene, pulled the big-boy off Miguel. The guy reacted, looking to clock Virgo with a round house. Instead of being walloped and taking a shot, Louis parried and landed his own high-impact shot! Virgo’s punch, much quicker, a short, compressed, judo-chop that broke the large fellow’s nose. The sound of the crack and sight of his own blood was too much for the chap. The big boy shouted, “Oh, my God! . . . My nose! My nose!” and he whimpered away to inspect the damage. That view and buddy-buddy alliance developed by the Spaniards laid fresh in the minds of any future squabblers. Miguel remained free to further brood and continue to mouth off.

After two years at Oxford Miguel And Louis separated and Garcia returned to the South of France and joined the ETA. In a short time he broke the law and shortly thereafter he went underground. Infiltrating his homeland’s Basque country he went on to recruit new members and stood ready to fight for complete Basque autonomy. While Virgo attended West Point, went on to Vietnam, and then pursued a life of elite crime, Miguel Garcia planted a new row of seeds in the minds of Spain’s latest sovereign-minded generation. He desired to spearhead a generation that might germinate seedlings and go on to become timbers of resistance, which eventually might splinter the forces of the Madrid.

The ‘60s produced a profound effect on young people from all over the world, not just in Haight Ashbury or Woodstock. For over 20-years Garcia worked his way up to become the organization’s Chief of Ideology. His position in the E.T.A. linked him with other criminal and terrorist groups. His branch of the ETA. was financed by the riches of his old-friend, mentor and patron, Louis Virgo.

European authorities for a long time suspected Virgo as the source of the ETA.’s financing. The United States Government, by 1992, with the cooperation of France and Spain confiscated all known Virgo wealth within the confines of their power. Port-o-Prince and Ocala were off-limits and too dangerous for him. Louis maintained a host of hidden-properties ‘round the world, most listed under aliases. Belize, Honduras, Greece, Thailand, at obscure addresses.

Miguel had been on the run most of his adult life. With his expanded education and many contacts he was no more than a fugitive. He relied on an existence provided by those who embraced his views he’d hide out within safe houses but for only short periods of time.

The answered telephone in the above apartment set the agenda. Captain Gonzalves was home. Miguel zoomed-away from San Juan in the white, nondescript Siat, moving fast towards the Guadalquivir river, after making a hasty call from a phone booth across the street from the apartment house. Twenty-minutes latter Miguel hooked up with two others about two miles north of Expo. From the river’s shoreline they unloaded from one the other men’s truck some empty, wooden, barrels, which they let drift into the fast-moving current. They then waded into the river treading water so to give the barrels a good start.

Once back on shore they changed back into warm clothes and the three men hopped back into their vehicles and drove along the edge of the river. They parked outside a small cafe that sat across the river from Expo’s northern border. The cafe provided outdoor seating and its location provided an excellent vantage point while they observed the river. With Captain Gonsalves off duty their action was an opportunity to observe if the underwater surveillance system functioned without the captain’s presence.

It was Sunday night; the building suspected of housing the sonar equipment remained dark. It would take about 45-minutes, to an hour for the barrels to drift passed the detection equipment. If the decoys triggered an alarm, the turning on of lights, and bevy of activity would indicate the system was armed despite the absence of the Romeo, Captain.

What sat across the river, across the bridges, and further across the wide-sidewalks bordering Toreno boulevard, were three, drinking establishments, establishments situated side-by-side in the midst of an up-surge of business. Many of the fair’s new employees stopped off at the watering holes, and would continue to do so over the oncoming summer months. Joven de Casterarro, one of the drinking holes was a long time Seville landmark.

Next to the Joven de Casterarro stood a bar called Rebeldes owned by an American. Butted up against Rebeldes the third joint, Palacia China. The Chinese restaurant, recently opened and was miserably managed by a clutter of grouchy Chinese, based out of someplace in Holland. All three establishments opened for 24-hours.

Miguel and the two other men didn’t stand out and fit with the Sunday-night crowd. They entered the first bar, the local one and ordered three cervezas. at Joven de Casterarro, the dark hovel, where once the fair was opened would become nicknamed the Jesus Bar by the irreverent Australians, an easier moniker for mates to utter, rather than them wrestling with its Spanish name. On the inside of Joven de Casterarro, from floor to the ceiling, was a collection of every bleeding-heart-of-Jesus painting that could ever be imaginable.

The paintings were mostly oil based. Jesus was depicted in every pose that could morbidly lend itself to the crucifixion. Graphic images of Jesus adorned in his crown-of-thorns, with streams of blood running down the savior’s face were a gruesome sampling of art. Bone-crushing depictions, showing spikes rammed through the Lord’s hands reminding one of the excruciating pain that the self-professed savior must have endured. A sad and sorry Christ hung from each painting with a forlorn expression painted on his, “Father, they don’t know what they’ve done,” face. A few weeks later, upon their initial late-night visit to Joven de Casterarro guys who worked for WWF would comment, that after a few Scotches the dive didn’t seem like an appropriate place to chase pussy.

Perhaps because the bar was so overwhelming while boasting the sacred heart of Jesus but mostly because of their mission, Miguel and the three men went outside away from the morbid cafe. They sat there, sipping on their beers, too intent to participate in a nothing conversation. Their eyes stayed fixed on buildings across the river.

Exactly 57-minutes after they dumped the barrels they noticed a flurry of activity. Lights flashed on. Over on Expo’s riverbank, dark moving figures could be made-out and there were unmistakable sounds coming from what was sure to be squads of troops. Spotlights came alive from half-a-dozen locations. The lights frantically panned the dark waters. Mean sounding and heavily armed speedboats launched and motored their way out to the center of the river. Other patrol boats already on the river met-up with the latest ones.

The ears of the three spies picked up on errant laughing at what broke the tension and state of emergency. After discovering the items that set off the alarms were no more than some run-away barrels an all-clear signal was given. That was that, unfortunately for Miguel and his cohorts the Expo underwater listening-team were already crossed trained and the under-water detecting system was armed and ready.

Miguel and his men deserted their still almost full cervezas and drove two and half hours south to Tarifa, a town along the Atlantic coast near Gibraltar. Miguel maintained a safe house there that was an ocean front bungalow.

Two blocks from the ocean bungalow sat parked a R.A.C.E. tow-truck with R.A.C.E. being Spain’s equivalent to the American Automobile Association. Inside the house sat a man in R.A.C.E. tow-truck operator’s overalls. He was trimming his nails. Ten good-size boxes crowded the small living room.

The tow-truck was deserted by Virgo earlier, and was just two blocks away. The ten-wheel utility vehicle with a car hooked to it, hanging off of it just like a caught fish. The truck flashed Madrid tags, as did the vehicle. Virgo figured that police wouldn’t bother to stop a tow-truck belonging to such a well-respected organization such as R.A.C.E. The company’s vehicles regularly crisscrossed Spain’s hi-ways, hardly noticed by anyone other than broken down motorist. Inside the stacked boxes was not the type of garb worn by good Samaritans.

Miguel and Louis greeted each other and Miguel went on to introduce the other men. Miguel reported how the floating barrels activated the waterway’s warning system. Virgo anticipated that the system was already set.

With such news he switched to Plan B. With some enthusiasm he unpacked one of ten large boxes. He removed a thick, muddy-colored, wetsuit.

Virgo, through his connections in the Sicilian Mafia, procured the heavy looking suits the month before. Actually he procured them through a Greek arms trader, one Theo Leonis, with connections aligned with the present-day version of the Black-Wing, serving within the United States Navy. “For Sale” was stolen, twelve, stealth-like, under-water, frogmen suits, underwater gear originally swiped from a Navy-surplus depot in Philadelphia.

Designed while in the throes of the cold war so U.S. Navy personnel could sneak up on Soviet nuclear submarines. The stealth’s non-properties, or phantom like qualities enabled frogmen to drop in on subs without any chance of being detected by the sonar. They’d be able to spy or commit acts of sabotage and more than likely get away Scot-free. With the dismantling of the Soviet threat, they wouldn’t be missed from the huge stockpile belonging to the American arsenal. Their re-sale value plummeted. Theo Leonis took a beating and sold the suits to Virgo for $125,000, each in American dollars.

Virgo encouraged Miguel by telling him that the suits were designed to outwit Soviet sonar, which is way more proficient than the French model that they’d be going up against, the kind being employed up at Expo. Therefore, Expo’s security should be no match.

“These my friend, are the suits that you’ll be wearing when your kill team makes the advance.”

The infiltrators would float on their backs with their torsos just beneath the surface, weighed down by weights hanging off their ankles, elbows and hips. They would float in midsummer’s slow-moving waters.

A plus was that the Guadalquivir sprouted fields of river reeds protruding up and down its outer banks. Often they broke from their stems and under-water roots and floated down the river. The infiltrators would employ a facsimile of those river reeds and breath air through them by extending their synthetic reeds upwards — actually camouflage straws that poked out of the river just above the water line. They’d have to pull the reeds back under the water when they passed beneath the three, well-lit bridges at night toward their pre-determined landing.

Virgo earned some mad money, dirty-kill money paid up-front for—for two upcoming kills. His forthcoming services would enable him to pay for the frogmen suits. He’d be cutting it close, just before the Olympiad, while fine-tuning for the big kill. Expo would be in full swing but still Virgo’s itinerary full, reserved by the elders of the Sicilian Mafia and the bloodthirsty Libyan Government.

The circumstances dealing with one contract was eradicating a newly appointed, Italian prosecutor. Paulo Bertilino, as if his quest was of one seeking the Holy Grail, while armed with sweeping powers, full of righteousness and blessings of the Italian Government, he crusaded his way all the way to the doorsteps of the local Costra Nostra.

The prosecutor’s dogged determination earned him many a collar. His reputation; bright . . . honest . . . tough . . best of all ,he couldn’t be bought — Palermo’s version of Elliot Ness.

In early June, Virgo would stake out Palermo in search of Bertilino’s whereabouts, an extremely difficult assignment in itself. The productive prosecutor’s travel arrangements were kept extremely confidential. Bertilino was capable of delegating authority from a distance and cautious. He wasn’t one who ventured out or beyond the walls of his administrative offices. When he did, it was with suddenness . . . with many guards.

Virgo studied a detailed biography on Paulo Bertilino provided by his benefactors. After weighing and sorting out vast sums of information Virgo summed up how to get close enough to make the kill. Seems the prosecutor kept close ties with his aging mother. The mommy’s boy risked his cover to visit mama.

Virgo strolled through the Saturday morning produce market; he hummed “It’s Now Or Never.” He meandered next to a wooden vegetable stand, looked over, squeezed, and picked out some fresh tomatoes. He went out of his way to initiate small talk with the nice old woman who also was shopping for fresh produce.

He pasted on an altar boy’s smile, gently touched the old women and spoke dearly about his own, but long-passed mama. He blessed her and said, she so reminded him of mama. The old woman spoke, that she too had a son who loved ripe tomatoes. She said that he reminded her of him.

She’d dare not slip, or leak a word about the visit. At 82, still sharp . . . sharp enough not give away information that could harm her boy.

She didn’t have to say a word; she already tipped her hand. Virgo understood she rarely left her home. Neighbors normally shopped for her. It was a lock; she didn’t want anybody to suspect she was shopping for special company . . . so she would do it herself.

Bertilino’s mama purchased eggplant, aged Parmesan, scungiel, and fresh fruits all essential ingredients belong to her son’s favorite dish.

Virgo concocted his own recipe, a home-made favorite consisting of piping-hot death. He marked her, knowing all along that she was seldom away from her row home, she forecast an impending Sunday-morning company.

The local constables couldn’t be trusted with such esoteric information such as keeping a sharp eye out on the mother’s street.

At about 4:00 a.m, on Sunday morning, a Euro Ford, packed with explosives, rolled up in front of the mother’s brick home. Only two blocks away two patrolling policemens’ time was taken up by a pair of ladies who appeared to have had too much to drink as they shamelessly flirted with the constables, all arranged by Virgo to keep the coast cleared.

Chief Prosecutor Bertilino, along with his personal-security detachment of seven wouldn’t know what hit them, when they were violently blown to smithereens before 11:00 a.m that Sunday morning.

Just a street corner away, with a snake-in-his-pants, Virgo admired the bloody fruits that bloomed from another warped and twisted masterpiece. Moments before another masterpiece was in the works in the form of Mama’s red-ripe tomatoes, simmering in garlic and onion, breaded egg plant sautéing itself to perfection in a loving lake of olive oil while boiling on a hot stove. At the same time, mama hummed away, not being able to shake the tune “It’s Now or Never” out of her head, a melody she had heard somewhere and had been humming it steadily since the day before.

With a slight push of a life-ending button Virgo extinguished peoples lives. Worse in some minds, he destroyed the old woman’s relished chance to glow for just a shinning moment when she presented her boy his favorite meal, and Virgo, the beast that he was, broke her heart and ruined the sauce. Her precious bambino was snuffed from existence, enabling sixty-percent of the frogmen suits to be paid for.

The remaining forty percent came from the demise of his next target. Amnesty International, the benevolent watchdog organization, became a thorn in the side of regime that resided in Tripoli, Libya. Amnesty’s board of directors cast an accusing finger and shed some incriminating light upon Libya’s dastardly deeds. Assassinations and torture perpetrated by political prosecutions were delivered in the laps of malcontents. They possessed undeniable proof that might lead to the indictment of Khadafi himself. Amnesty International rallied the U.N., the World Court and the sympathizing sentiments of the international press, turning public opinion against the North African regime.

Italian informants clued Libyan security forces, revealing that Helen Smirtz, the Chairwoman of Amnesty International would tour Italy.

Just outside the boundaries of picturesque Lake Como, as she made her way up the foothills of the Alps, and while she enjoyed the breathe-taking vistas from behind the wheel of her rented Renault, she would be murderously shoved over a cliff by the force belonging to road-hogging, nasty-acting BMW 850.

The intruding “Beemer’s” over-powering weight and tiger-pawed grip was no match for little wheels belonging to her docile Renault. The BMW grit its teeth, perhaps letting out a low-pitched, bloodcurdling roar as the madman behind its wheel steered it along side of the unsuspecting altruist. Virgo savored the memory, a stunning portrait consisting of framed fear-and-terror into an extraordinary mental flashback. Often, after the fact, he brought back to memory, recalling for his own pleasure the way her facial expression changed . . . right after it was apparent she lost control by being bullied by the BMW while heading toward the 100 meter high liff just before she became airborne!

He took a final glimpse. It was dick-gripping stuff!

Smirtz was the first woman he ever tracked-down and offed. Less than a kilometer from the scene, he pulled to the side of the road in his death-causing machine just to whack-off.

The Libyans, at Virgo’s special request, paid the Sicilians for his dirty-deed. The Sicilians purveyed the stealth suits from Theo Leonis for $1.5 million, at Virgo’s word to go-ahead. Honor amongst thieves.

*          *          *

After modeling one of the suits, Virgo explained to Miguel about the reeds. Around Ocala, Florida, in Seminole territory, Indian kids taught him how to use the reeds so to breath while under water. He told Miguel that old chiefs showed Indian kids the way their ancestors snuck-up on the white men before slitting their throats. “They used the reeds.”

Virgo ordered the suits modified. He ordered ripples molded onto the front, having them dyed more-muddy brown as to blend in with rippling, waters of the Guadalquivir.

Louis Virgo himself while alone crept into the muddy Guadalquivir the next night wearing a bulky wetsuit with reed in hand. Once alerted that the warning system was activated he chose a lone-eagle’s path and took the risks. Lying on his back he eased into the current. Steering with his hands as he drifted past the detection devices . . . undetected.

It worked!

Miguel and Louis finalized their assault plans for Expo. An observing international community sat curious, eager to see how Spain was going to balance all of the complicated circumstances that must be orchestrated to present a World Exposition, with the Quinta-Centennial, also taking place in Madrid, and with the grand finally, being the Olympiad, in Barcelona. Spain’s security forces remained tight lipped as even ordinary exercises and other things would remain extra tense until July 25th.

King Juan Carlos was to reign over the Olympiad—the first of its kind since the end of the cold war. The Olympiad was to be the crowning jewel during Spain’s glorious 1992.

Spain bathed in a golden-light of the so-called new-order.

The official, royal itinerary, one month before, listed the king departing his palace in Madrid and off to Barcelona the morning of the 25th.

Louis Virgo thought or should we say knew different. A blackout concerning the king’s whereabouts would go into effect. Despite the posted itineraries, the real whereabouts of the king the week before the big event would be kept secret. Spain couldn’t take any risks. His heavy security would increase dramatically.

Unrelated on the surface, in Seville, on July 24th, the day before the scheduled Olympiad designated as Norwegian National Day. By July 24 the World’s Fair would have been operating on a day-to-day basis for over three months. Much of its initial luster by then wore off and parlayed into what was becoming the routine. The searching and verifications and back pack inspections were wearing down Expo security. So far, there’d been no serious incidents, not even an errant firecracker. Other than being National Norwegian Day it was just another day as hordes of tourists passing through spun the fair ground’s turn styles.

Luke and Johnny S. saw July 24th; as just another day on the other side of life, far away from Hawaii.

Another intricate piece of Virgo’s terrorist puzzle, the Crown Prince of Norway, Gustaff IV. While in Seville he’d would represent his father and his country on Norwegian National Day. It so happened that King Juan Carlos’s unmarried, 26-year-old-daughter, Lydia, for sometime harbored a royal-crush for the Norwegian crown prince. Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, well aware of the romance, made no secret of it around the Zarzuela Palace.

As infatuation would have it, on July 24th; one with any-sort of matchmaking-sense could expect the presence of Spain’s Princess Lydia at the Norwegian pavilion, then obviously escorted by the Norwegian prince. She, with good grace, would maintain her own residence at the king’s apartment inside the walls of Santa Maria de las Cuevas on the grounds of the world exposition, the once summer palace of Queen Isabella back in the fourteen hundreds.

By July of 1992 the old cluster of monastery buildings had been painstakingly renovated to their original elegance.

July 24th also was going to be Princess Lydia’s birthday. Set alone, merely, a European princess’s birthday is not thought to be so important when compared to affairs of state.

Then again, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia spent each and every birthday with their darling princess since her birth. The royal couple made it a conscious habit to never miss one, even by cutting short visits to foreign lands.

Even in the midst of his predecessor’s state funeral, only hours before being proclaimed king they snuck away to be with their daughter. Virgo collected and stored every tidbit of information available regarding the personal habits of Juan Carlos. He held onto a strong hunch. Despite the king supposedly being scheduled to be in Madrid, Virgo was sure about the king’s real whereabouts on the up-coming 24th of July.

Virgo, a few years back, accidentally came across an article in “Hola.” Spain’s equivalent to “LIFE” magazine, published a photo capturing the king at a birthday party held for the princess. A footnote below the photograph printed a one liner about the birthday tradition. Footnotes such as those don’t go by unnoticed by the likes of a Louis Virgo. He shelved the info, cataloged it in his mind, and patiently waited for a rainy day.

“Gotcha!” he’d say when one of those trivial things manifested themselves and gruesomely became a death-notice noose around his victims necks. Virgo banked his most daring feats on his ability to study and follow-up on human patterns. Virgo suspected that the 24th of July that that year would be no different.

The king’s security, not totally asleep at the switch, was cognizant of the king’s penchant to be with his daughter on her birthday. They were forced to play a wait-and-see game. The king played his own little game too, and for regal reasons, because he was the king, purposely kept security in the dark.

If Virgo’s hunch proved out correct the king would opt to be in Seville.

Actually Juan Carlos had a notorious reputation for sneaking away from his security. He was known to swipe motorcycles from his police and take solo rides on the bikes into the countryside. When the time came, a handful of Spain’s secret service would be alerted about such a change in plans. The king’s security thinking that it would be better if the World believed that el rey was safely tucked away inside the solid walls surrounding to his Madrid palace. If he did buck the system and shoot off to Seville, to be with his daughter, he’d land inside the confines of Expo with its sealed tight security.

Theo Leonis, the Greek arms dealer had some other goodies for Virgo too. Light-carrying but possessing a heavy-duty deadly impact—Czech made assault rifles, enough fire power for a dozen well-trained men to fend and hold off a small army.

Virgo controlled other trump cards, several ones. Unbeknown to Miguel and his team, Virgo a year before, while Expo was under going initial construction he sought out an opportunity to recruit a plumbing contractor as a partner. He had the contractor bid and win the Expo job at a ridiculously low bid. He promised to make up any loses. Using aliases he paid-off a tradesmen union about being a plumbing sub-contractor. He fitted himself onto the job plus put 63 men to work.

For balance sheet purposes his venture into the contracting business was a loser, but Virgo wasn’t involved for the money. Under the cover of the job, Virgo and a band of his handpicked infiltrators spiked the fair’s micro-cooling system with poison gas.

Virgo was present in and around the monastery six months before the fair was to open when they loaded the lethal stuff into the pipes. The team clandestinely planted canisters of mustard gas into the micro-cooling system. The gas could be released onto the grounds by merely pressing a button on a remote control, exactly like the one that assassinated Paulo Bertilino yet without the blast. He couldn’t plant explosives, ‘cause bomb-sniffing dogs could detect the telltale aromas. The gas was odorless and the dogs hadn’t been trained to detect it. The only hitch was that his company was not permitted to install the cooling system within the king’s private quarters. Yet the gas was planted all around the security perimeter to the king’s private quarters.

 

CHAPTER 13

 

St. James Day was more than three months away. Meanwhile, the alarm clock sledge-hammered Luke out of his sleep. Being conscious didn’t relieve exhaustion. He was wracked with body ache, sore feet and legs a far cry from the energetic Luke heading to work the day before when popping out of bed. That was yesterday—when he was filled with adrenalin, worrying about meeting Gary and wrongfully enthused about the idea of getting accredited. No adrenalin flowed through his veins that morning.

The previous workday had taken its toll plus, Luke hadn’t slept well, disturbed often and suddenly by a shrill amplifying from a phone somewhere in the apartment complex. In between rings he was startled and shaken from a deep sleep by the yet to be seen Canadian kids he shared a room with who came home drunk. But then, once awake his mind didn’t shut down for what seemed like hours.

With the alarm clock, the kids lying around the floor in sleeping bags hardly stirred. For their disturbance there was no getting even.

Thoughts of the forthcoming day dwarfed any enthusiasm he may have harbored for what lay ahead. He’d go through the drudgery of the day before all over again by taking the bumpy crowded bus back toward Seville.

Remember, Luke planned to meet with the employees at R401 no latter than 8:00 a.m. Then he was due to attend the managers meeting. The job, newfound responsibilities and how to manage Inez and the girls to started be them started weighed on a still sleepy mind. He lumbered onto the bus and limped down the aisle.

Again, he took in the surroundings wondering what went on behind scenes, comparing differences between life styles in Europe compared to that in America.

In the past he gave little thought to language barriers the enormities of not being able to communicate. He was almost helpless being unable to understand virtually everything. What if somebody yelled? “Look out! . . . Or, ‘get out quick!’ ” The fact leaned upon Luke, he’d have to watch-his-step, stay sharp. Spain could be a dangerous place.

The hassles at the gates and utterances of “no pase,” greeted Luke at his first two attempts to enter the fairgrounds. While in line at the east gate the guard became preoccupied with a persistent woman who had two children by the hands. Other workers becoming impatient at the long-winded discussion while the woman tried to get the kids inside Expo, so the waiting and then impatient workers began, on their own to flow on through the turn-styles. The guard let down his guard, perhaps on purpose for the convenience of those not wanting to be late for work. Luke joined in on the mini-stampede. By the time the guard regained a sense of order, Luke scooted past being absorbed by the site.

Inez showed and was having a smoke. Luke had given up on smoking. In Spain it seemed as if everybody smoked. Luke took a stab at small talk echoing his thoughts about everybody smoking and how he once did. He discovered Silvia and Isabella went to college, earned degrees, and would begin new careers after the fair. He discovered that the attractive Minole was married. Luke would later discover from Inez, that Minole’s husband was a stay-out, a shark, a gambler and ladies man, with a penchant for gambling and shooting pool.

He gave Inez instructions via his translator. He checked his checklist. The women knew exactly what needed to be done and could be trusted to be on their own as Luke was off to the manager’s meeting at R403.

Upon his arrival part of R403 had been cordoned off. Away from earshot of restaurant’s patrons other tables and chairs were set aside. Heather, Carmen directed R403 employees them carrying out trays of pastries and coffee for the WWF people who began to meander in for the meeting.

Luke recognized a few. There was Gloria from the office, Kenny from Montreal who worked R415. A woman Luke remembered seeing at the nave accompanied him. He presumed she was Loretta, Kenny’s talked-about wife. Old grumpy Bill and apartment sharing Liz, along with two of the Canadian roommates were already having coffee off to the side while gobbling apple pastries. Gary and Brady showed. Brady seated himself and quickly opened his portfolio while sorting papers.

Soon enough, 35 or so assembled and seated under umbrellas and around plastic tables on the outside of R403. So, Luke thought, this was the crackerjack team that the ringmaster Harry Gross assembled to hawk burgers, fries and pizzas.

They didn’t look that sharp. They were a mangled bunch appearing too pooped and disheveled to feed a soup line. They were on the most part the unshaven, scruffy, with evidence of sleepy-stuff still crusting their eyes appearing shabby and impoverished in rumpled-clothing a far cry from Major General Ware’s elite staff back in Vietnam.

In the middle of the lot sat shifty Harry Gross sitting amongst his handpicked “amauf” (almost-middle-aged, urban, failures). If still in the midst of comparisons to a general staff sat the crumb of a man who was a much further-cry from the likes of the valiant general.

Gary’s stayed standing in front of his table, displaying and overseeing posture with hands on his hips that stated he was going to run the meeting. Off the bat he announced—everybody who’d been on site for more than 30 days and had an assignment would get paid—that day.

Those who hadn’t received an assignment were yet on the clock. Gary then up-dated everybody on the status of the seven WWF restaurants scheduled to open. Once those restaurants were equipped he’d issue assignments. Essential equipment had yet to arrive. Gary said it wasn’t their fault. Luke thought how Harry and Gary had two years to prepare, that there were about a dozen people who traveled half way around the world on their word, told to get to Spain as soon as possible at their own expense, with no place to stay and yet their lives were on hold because Gary and Harry were incompetent!

The electric permits for the unopened restaurants were still on hold. The Spanish were playing hard ball and conducting scrutinizing inspections and demanding specific specifications to the wiring, probably due to the insolent nature and arrogance flashed by Harry and Gary along with their condescending manners. They broke the news to WWF that the government wasn’t, for the time being, issuing applications for permits or accreditations. Gary complained that un-cooperating Expo officials were becoming more belligerent while quizzing WWF about its hiring of so many foreigners. Expo wanted to know why? WWF had been officially informed years before they were to hire less than a dozen foreigners. Not giving the rules any thought Harry applied for over 50 outside applications. For the past two years Harry Gross reneged on just about every agreement he agreed to with the Spanish Expo officials.

Just weeks before the fair was scheduled to open the slighted officials put Harry and Gary in their place, having them by the short hairs—and almost begging on his knees. If it were solely up to the local officials—he’d never get his other joints opened. Over a time the details would emerge how Harry and Gary had embellished their work-plans, lied and ignored the guidelines set by Expo.

Rather it be employing unauthorized employees, to the falsifying of documents, to chintzing on quality of products, to whatever, Harry and Gary Gross were big-time, major-league, downtown, swindling scammers.

Using graft and well-placed bribes WWF was fortunate enough to procure an early contract as to feed the Fair’s construction workers and had been doing so for the past two years. They served the various construction crews around the clock out of WWF food-trucks. Regardless of many warnings and complaints Harry continued to serve unauthorized and inferior products. He gouged and even raised prices higher for the construction workers, and became an absolute nuisance with his antics. He constantly pressed, asking for more and more exemptions, complaining with lies he could not procure certain foodstuffs called for in the contract.

His efforts often stood in the way of the fair’s builders. Builders, for safety sake, insisted that they cordon off areas, because of the use of explosives or whatnot. Despite the risks, disregarding safety concerns, Harry directed his food trucks into those off-limit areas to squeeze out additional afternoon coffee and sandwich sales. He’d delay the angry contractors by not clearing the food trucks or they’d speed into unauthorized areas when all clear signals had not been given.

He’d threatened Expo officials, saying he rubbed elbow with influential people in high places and said he’d expose the fair for having bias policies while threatening them to the media and while exposing them to bad publicity back in the States. Harry Gross wasn’t about to make friends in Spain nor did he care to. Guys like Harry Gross don’t make friends but solely choose to make for good opportunity.

The Spanish long ago recognized the man made no effort to use their language in the simplest of terms and they saw it as a snub. Harry stiffed local businessmen, reneged on promises showing little desire to run a stand-up organization.

By then officials were up fed up with WWF offering no further cooperation and instructed contractors and purveyors to cut off all support systems until WWF began to abide by the rules. Timetable wise, WWF was far behind!

After the dull report to the crew about WWF’s not-yet-opened restaurants Gary touched on some other things they might expect to happen once the fair got going. The local work force had to be properly trained and a myriad of other subjects pertaining to the day-to-day operations surfaced.

The subjects ran the gambit and varied, warning about the over use of too many trash can liners, “make sure they’re full — place your feet inside the bags and step down on the trash to compress the rubbish,” — then regarding employee meals, “make them pay half—no seconds, no free soft drinks.”

Harry interjected, interrupting Gary, and rose to his feet. He was emphatic while explaining how they had to stuff the paper cups with lots of ice. “Mucho heilo, mucho heilo,” he hammered home, breaking-away from his usual ignorance and avoidance of the Spanish language. In addition, with a clenched fist and Draconian zeal, he punched his left palm twice with his right, to re-emphasize the point.

Harry’s crackerjack beverage manager Phil, a tall, blonde-haired fellow from the Pacific Northwest intervened and patronized Harry while collecting some brownie points.

Phil told the managers and threatened to fire anybody, including them, if he caught a sole drinking out of a company-cup. His recommendation, all employees should bring from home their own cup, so they could be used over again and again. Harry gloated at the idea of the sound of his restaurant’s interests being taken to heart. Phil, without a challenge, in front of Harry and the rest, as the boot licker went on to present an example of waste. He multiplied the amount of workdays by the amount of workers and came up with some mind-boggling numbers about how many cups might be thrown away, further wasting what he called expensive trash bags, especially if everybody used a company cup five times a day. Harry beamed at the farsightedness of his ace beverage manager.

“That could be our fucking bonus, man!” Phil warned.

Similar sentiments were offered about other paper-saving methods especially napkins. Harry ordered, “No napkin dispensers on the counter. “Make ‘em ask for them! . . . The Spanish like to steal the sugar packs . . . Same with ketchup and mustard, “make ‘em ask for everything . . .”

“So far,” he continued, “Much of our ice-cream cone supply is damaged . . . Save those broken-cones. Rene can make use of them in the bakery. She makes pastries out of the crumbled cones. And another thing! I saw a girl doing this . . .”

Harry cupped his hand and held it out in front of him; to demonstrate the way girl he had noticed and the distinct way she held the cone. “Why, she just let the ice-cream plop right to the fucking bottom. Can you believe? It’s so stupid!”

He faced towards Carmen.

“Carmen, it’s absolutely imperative, and I want you to personally see to it that your girls not fill the cones all the way up with soft ice cream. The product should just be put around the rim. Hold the cone side-ways under the machine and have ‘em twirl it . . . see.”

Harry orchestrated a cone topping charade for the benefit of the others.

“This way . . . none goes inside . . . Got it?”

Another monotonous, repetitive, hour was spent, on every penny-pinching procedure that could be conceived.

“That’s the least to be expected of you guys . . . You guys are that back bone of WWF,” echoed Gary, getting his two-cents in.

Money control was another subject that was given much time. As far as Harry and his yes men were concerned every Spaniard was a petty thief.

“They’d have to be watched like hawks!”

The meeting lasted on past noon. Some of the empty-headed staff asked empty-headed questions, questions that bogged them down for 15-minutes or so. On the side, private conversations broke out amongst the team, and some lost interest.

Luke, sitting next to the old man Bill quietly asked if Bill could help him get made an extra key for the company apartment. He’d been fortunate so far, he said in a low tone, always finding somebody home. He speculated that soon he’d find nobody home. He asked Bill if he could he get a key?

“Luke!”

Luke heard his name called from somewhere in the meeting.

“Luke, we’re trying to conduct an important meeting here!”

Searching for the source of the call, it was Gary on the other side of the affront.

At least a half-dozen other conversations going on at the same time never prompted Gary’s attention. Some of them had been going on for some time. Yet Gary singled out Luke, while in all actuality Luke was speaking to Bill in hushed tones. Luke didn’t care for it. It was embarrassing being brought on the carpet in front of the entire staff. In Luke’s eyes it wasn’t a positive introduction.

Harry feeling the tension broke in. “Let’s all try to keep it down so we can get outta here.”

Some additional squabbles broke out. The warehouse men bitched at the delivery people. Johnny S. wasn’t there to backup up his guys; they got the worse of it. Luke, still fuming about the put-down, sorted out the various factions. It was the old guard verses the new people.

Harry permitted the bickering go on as if he was taking in some pleasure at listening to his workers threaten each other. Nobody had yet complained about being overworked or under-paid. The beefs were primarily about incompetence, letdowns—stuff that no one was willing to take responsibility for. But as time went by, some relented, when they reached an impasse or were unable to pin blame on one another they’d accuse the Spanish.

“Alright, alright!” Gary stepped in like a referee. “Remember, your bonuses are going to be predicated on how much money each of your joints make! . . . And remember, mucho heilo. OK.? Same time, same place, next week . . . be on time.”

People were making their getaways. Like a barker Gary continued, “Brady and I will be visiting all of you all throughout the week. Now get back to your joints.”

Not given a chance to say anything during the meeting, Brady tried to hold up some escaping managers, “I have essential paperwork here. Please stop by before you leave so I can give it to you.”

Nobody could give a fuck.

Luke summed, Harry Gross’s so-called mavens were a mishmash of “used-to-be’s” and “never-were’s.” Most hooked or crooked their way to Spain. A dingy lot of Americans and Canadians with a sprinkling of English, Irish, Hungarian and even a few malcontent Spaniards led the various departments. The head baker, a French woman, who produced creamy and yummie filled goods, way sweeter than her salty disposition. The transportation director was a graduate student from Budapest who looked down his nose at Johnny S.’s crew. That was the attitude throughout the company. Take the wrinkled bunch away from the sparkling backdrop of an Expo they might remind one of low-grade, hodge-podge of rag-tag losers working as lowlife carnies hooked up with a seedy traveling circus.

On top of that, Harry Gross held most by the cards. After he convinced most of the rat pack to travel halfway around the world at their expense they were at his mercy. Many were stuck and had to work if they wanted to make enough money get back home or anywhere else.

Harry recruited most, enticing them with the promises of cash bonuses. Harry had the nerve to say there was going to be great fellowship. “Everybody goes to the gym each day. There’s going to be company parties! We’re like one big family over there.” He said there would be lots of hard work but yet plenty of fun and plenty of adventure. He pontificated beforehand during his recruitment tour as he stuffed future crews with rich foods, paid for by investors money in the fancy restaurants of New York, Honolulu, Montreal and San Francisco, promising how all would become an enriching experience, going further to say how there would even be lots of time off desiring everybody to do some traveling so to get to the feel of the country. It was all a lie.

Harry offered no time to listen to complaints. He wanted to hear only what he wanted to hear. If someone pointed out gross mismanagement or suspected pilferage, Harry became defensive rather than inquisitive. Those who shed light on the dark corners of Harry’s operation found themselves on Harry’s shit list. He browbeat those who blew the whistle. It would be Harry who would spread word throughout the company and say, “Oh, he’s a trouble-maker . . . He or she’s not a doer . . . They’re tearer-downers!” or he would say things such as, “She likes to stir things-up!”

Harry’s reward towards those who were loyal–ruthless rebuffs, slaps in the face. Soon enough those sort of responses by the head of the WWF management team put a clamp on many prospective whistleblowers. Liars, cheats, bullies, ass kissers and genuine troublemakers seemed to be rewarded. It was strange like man bites dog.

Luke swallowed hard and tallied an honest evaluation regarding his own situation. It wasn’t as if he had a high horse to get down from. It was no secret. He experienced his fall from grace some time ago. Instead of comparing himself against the others, it might be healthier for him to just join the ranks and extend a helping hand toward his battle-weary co-managers, seeing what he could do. Still, Luke pitied them. But Luke needed to get used to the idea he was in the same boat. The hard facts, he too would be relying on Harry’s jerkwater handouts for his own existence. That possible forthcoming Luke didn’t want to dwell on. In no time he’d be down to less than $1200 in cash. It looked as if it might be some time before he’d get paid. He’d have to watch his cash and hold back on the Visa card.

It was without saying that many of the WWF managers flashed genuine talent. Many involved themselves in other productive enterprises.

Luke caught the vibe that Harry and Gary wanted everybody to go back to his or her joints. He said a few, “See you, laters,” and split. As he reached R401 he found his workers clustered around Inez. She apparently had cut herself on a sharper edge of a piece of sheet metal. Her finger was ripped open with a nasty cut. The girls wanted to escort her to one of the near-by infirmaries. Inez, in obvious distress, held back tears. She was all of 19, but she had gamely assumed leadership amongst the crew. She had done this with Luke’s approval, plus, more importantly, she could speak some English. With her out Luke was left alone, only with his pocket-translator.

Luke had Minole accompany Inez to the infirmary, gave the girls additional orders and went in search of old Bill, who might give him some insight on how he could contact the gas and electric companies.

While in search of Bill, Luke came across WWF.’s corps of Scot electricians, working at Panama; another establishment that came under the emblem of WWF. Actually Allen and Mark, who Luke originally mistook as English, were proud Scots. It was Brad and Jimmy who were Englishmen. Allen was the head electrician, and the fellow who drove he, Carmen and Heather’s on the night of Luke’s arrival.

Luke quizzed him about the electricity.

Luke found Allen halfway up a ladder, his hands operating on the inside of an electric box. Wires were going everywhere. Allen was sweating like hell and for his sake Luke assumed the wires were innocuous but wasn’t sure, and wasn’t confident that he should pester Allen while he was working up on the ladder.

“Oh, it’s OK. mate. The good Lord will fry me if it need be.”

Luke inquired about R401’s electric and gas.

“Mate! Who told you that you had to go and have the electricity turned on— Harry?”

Luke affirmed.

“The fuckin’ twat doesn’t know what he’s talking about! For Christ’s sake, lad! If some bleeding asshole were to flip the juice on, why the bloody place will burn down to the god-damned ground . . . Filthy buggers, we haven’t finished all the fuckin’ phases yet . . . That cunt Gary knows it. Was he there?”

Luke affirmed.

“That little shit, just like him. Listen mate! For a start, the bleeding place needs to be re-wired, . . . then they’ll need a bloody inspection, first by the Spaniards and then by the friggin’ electric company . . . Only then, lad, will you get a permit . . . and after you get your permit you’ll have to call and kiss the bleeding bastards asses over at Expo power, and then, just maybe, the jerks will come out to turn it on . . . Look Luke! .Me and the boys are scheduled to go in to R401 tomorrow, Gary knows that. It will take us a day and a half or so to do our part . . . Luke I’ll see what I can do to help you out. But, there’s nothing you can do for now, son . . . believe me.

“ Luke, just give them lasses easy stuff to do at your joint, then just take a walk around the fairgrounds and stay out of sight . . . enjoy yourself . . . soon you’ll be sweating your ass off selling waffles and ice-cream. What will be will be, lad.”

Luke was thankful.

Allen climbed down the ladder and with perspiration still dripping from his upper lip and he got up close to Luke and articulated further in his rich Scottish brogue, “The man thinks this way, lad . . . even if you’re a bleeding, lowly, dish washer, that maybe somehow, you might be able to think of something that he or one of his other bloody, brown-nosers hasn’t . . . And he’s always looking for some bloke to provide him with a fuckin’ miracle . . . That’s the sorry picture and the sorry way he approaches all of the company’s problems. There’s no bloody planning. I’ve seen it all before, lad, on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s a shame. He’s notorious for telling five blokes to go out and do the very same thing. Suddenly mate, they’re all running around bumping into each other like idiots tripping over one another getting in each other’s bloody-fucking way. And with it all the confusion nothing gets done, lad. By the time you get something done, Harry has changed his crazy mind, ‘cause by then, that twat wants the work done a different way . . . and for less friggin’ money. Get used to it. That’s the way this company operates, laddie. Don’t get your bowels in an uproar, Luke, it won’t do no good. You seem like a decent sort of chap. Be careful for your own sake, laddie; these people can drive you to the bloody edge.”

Luke thanked Allen again, and wasn’t so sure how he should inquire about the gas.

“That’s a bird of a different color. The fuckin’ gages were supposed to be here. That numskull Brady is supposedly taking care of it. A firm in the States, Harry tried to burn, a couple of fairs ago, turns out to be the only, bloody firm, whose bloody pressure gauges hooks up with our bloody ovens. Listen to this, lad . . .The States-side firm said they wanted a certified cheque deposited into a N.Y. bank before they were going to ship out anything. Of course, know-it-all Harry nixed that and told Brady to send them just a regular cheque. That was a month ago. You know the rest of the story.”

Luke enlightened but at the same time disappointed but at the same time satisfied that he had uncovered another straight-talking kind of guy. So far, he could count on only four people in the company: Allen, Johnny S., Carmen and Heather. He wasn’t sure about anybody else.

It was official. Harry ran a shit bag operation. You couldn’t depend on a thing. Gary was a cruel, little dictator. Bradly was Gary’s puppet, Bill was a cranky old know-it-all and the other yes men were too scared to say anything. Besides, they sold each other out. Luke couldn’t figure, why they were such a bunch of sell-outs? Perhaps it was the only way they could deal of their own insecurities. Gloria, Liz, Kenny and most of the others were stuck in fly paper until October 12th or at least until they were able to clear up their own debts and get the fuck out of there.

“A World’s Fair is supposed to be invigorating!” So far, according to Luke’s observations, aspects about being stimulated or universally enthused lay dormant. Luke had no zest and had lost any desire to meet or interact with people from New Zealand, Iceland and Finland or anywhere. If there was to be any sort of intrigue it wouldn’t occur within that sort of atmosphere.

Pre-set circumstance mandated his trek to Europe to be far from an excursion. This trip was filled with speed bumps. There was the language, the accreditation thing, housing, transportation and pay. He didn’t want to be paranoid or even negative but Luke didn’t have to be a soothsayer to figure out Harry was trying to make some sort of example out of him, for what reasons he couldn’t come up with any. And if he wasn’t then Gary certainly was—everything seemed fucked up.

The other problems arose strangely enough from people he could communicate with. As time went bye some of his English-speaking contemporaries in WWF over turned his apple cart. Supplies wouldn’t arrive after a warehouse supervisor guaranteed that they would. No one at the nave seemed to be interested in sharing with him or helping him how to expedite or trace official paper work between Seville and Madrid for his accreditation. No one in the office would take the time to trudge through the maze of Spanish bureaucracy. The office staff, for the most part acted negative when asked for the most basic support saying that Harry said, “this” and that Gary said, “that.” Luke, after a few rebuffs, became hip to their tactics. Eventually he gave up on the incompetents and saw them as no more than small-minded drones, skirting issues and dodging responsibility. Luke couldn’t even get a clear answer, if any of the 10 people, then staying at the company apartment would be moving out. It was a joke. He couldn’t find out who was authorized and who had the rights to be there in the first place. Everything was tough.

He pestered Ramon, WWF’s spineless office manager. He was one of Harry’s locally bred,“si hombres.” Luke would have to wait for more than three days for a telephone to be installed at R401.He would spend more than 2200 pisetas of his own money on public phones, calling the warehouses or other locations. In Spain, a time meter runs, even while speaking on the local circuit. The way he was put on hold, for long periods of time didn’t help. The pay phones devoured his coins. Explicitly detailed, managers needed receipts for petty cash spent. No receipts were issued from public telephones. At the rate things were going it was unlikely that Luke would ever get reimbursed. Ramon patronized Luke, telling him he called the phone company everyday but that the local phone company kept breaking promises. Ramon told Luke he’d have to clear it through Gary about getting Luke’s telephone expenses approved.

Luke carried lots of change. Another drag for Luke was the hassle of walking. The site was huge, over 700 acres and one had to walk everywhere. Luke walked more in the first week than he did in the last three years. Between the apartment and the bus stop and from where the bus dropped him off to the nearest gate, was five long, city blocks. It could be another three miles if turned away, to try and get into another gate. On top of that, it was almost a mile to R401 once he made it inside the fairgrounds. Daily side trips, for this or that, or having to hoof off to R400, R403, R415 and Panama for something or other was another couple of miles. Then back home.

By the end of the first week Luke would find his feet incredibly sore. They were blistered. His hands hurt too. An array of nicks, scraps and painful paper-cuts had taken their toll. The paper cuts, from tearing open cardboard boxes hurt like hell during every conscious moment of the long workday. Every muscle in his legs ached. His skin was dry and scaly from the change of climate and his nose was itchy and stuffed-up. A constant headache never let loose. His ulcers burned, he was constipated and he was too freaked to even both to check out just what was itching inside his butt. It seemed as if he always had a terrible a taste in his mouth. Unbelievable! Somehow, perhaps because of an inner-strength, or a drive made up of something more powerful than the fear that there was a likely chance of busting out, he limped on.

Yet there were slight silver linings. On the day of the meeting when Luke returned to R401, he discovered Inez had returned from the infirmary. She was busy, back to scrubbing the sheet-metal counter, the very one, and scrubbing the very spot that cut her in the first place. She was scrubbing away. The other girls made signs and pointed to their own fingers, shaking their heads up and down. Their hand signals to inform Luke that Inez had taken six stitches in her finger, and there she was, back on the job. Amazingly she was smiling. Unlike WWF’s already dwindled spirit, the good, Spanish, girls were oblivious to WWF’s problems and just glad to show-off their own skills.

Luke reflected how Harry and Gary and a few others were saying the Spanish were lazy, good-for-nothings and that you couldn’t trust them. “Christ,” Luke reflected, back at Lucky’s, if a girl cut herself like that she’d be out of work for a week, insisting on sick pay and become up-tight about their medical benefits, plus eventually they would enlist a lawyer’s services and sue like hell.”

Luke and the girls spent a good day’s work together. He finished up and strolled over to R403 to visit with Carmen and Heather. Gary and Brady were outside the restaurant drinking coffee. Luke reported his progress to the managing duo and made what turned out to be a mistake by trying to engage in some small talk. He decided not to hang around and went on to it to catch the last bus back to San Juan.

The days leading up to the opening of the fair were both back breaking and what was maybe worse, often filled with boredom. Luke hung around the restaurant waiting for things like the phone to be installed. A break in the monotony was that the kid, Paco, in between shining shoes and selling cigarettes would stop to visit. The boy was good company despite the fact that they hardly spoke. Luke listened and watched the Scot electricians re-wire R401. Because of the past slip-shod workmanship the men with their commonwealth accents cursed the Spanish. On April 19th, the day before the fair Gary came to Luke.

“Luke I want you to go down to R415 tonight and get the waffle-irons seasoned. Find Bill and get from him the waffle recipe and have him show you how to fill-up the whipped cream canisters. Christ, we got seven pallets of whipped cream in cold storage. We have to use it before the expiration date. It expires three months earlier than we thought. Nobody checked it when it arrived. Teach the crew how to make waffles and have plenty of mix on-hand for tomorrow. It should be nuts.”

Luke worked into the night with two young Spanish fellows Juaquin and Raul. They actually had some fun. Both boys showed interest in Luke, they were curious about him being American. Both recently became fans of American Football, since Barcelona was an entry in the recently established International Football League and they wanted to know if Luke’s brand of American football was exactly as theirs. Luke tried as best he could to explain the different nuances between both leagues. The boys were amused as Luke demonstrated the no block below the waist rule, the extra-point conversion and football’s “in the grasp” rule.” They also learned how to make fluffy waffles.

The last bus back to San Juan left at 11:30 and Luke found himself still on site way past 1:00 a.m. Gary’s instructions, he wanted him in the waffle section of R415 on opening day and since R401 wasn’t open yet Gary said, for Luke to have his crew there too. Six of the nine restaurants would be open for business on opening day. Luke had to take a cab back to San Juan.

It was after midnight and Luke, along with Juaquin and Raul had produced two batches of mix. The fellows were going to make more but old Bill called and said that Luke had to give way to the pizza department, ‘cause they had to use the big, Hobart, mixer to make more pizza dough. The buses had stopped running an hour before so Luke was forced to take a cab back to the apartment.

Luke had a difficult time explaining San Juan to the cab driver. He said San Juan but the driver repeated the name of the pueblo in a stranger fashion . . . sounded nothing like San Juan.

San Juan! San Juan!” Luke repeated. He remembered Cabrero’s a popular market located around the corner from the company apartment. With the help of his Spanish word finder, he spelled out the word: market“Mercado! Cabrero’s mercado, San Juan,” Luke insisted.

Oh, San Juan, si ,“ the cabby’s Juan sounding like “Whan.”

“That’s what the fuck I said, asshole!” Luke spat out in disgust.

From up front the driver turned to Luke, “En Espana, no hablamos fuck! . . .Vas!” he ordered Luke out of the cab.

“That was just great!” Luke had cursed himself out of a cab ride and found himself outside the gates of Expo. He was tired. There were no other cabs in sight. After a considerable bit of time the green-lit beacon atop of a vacant cab appeared.

This time Luke enunciated his pronunciation of the word San Juan. Still, the driver had trouble understanding. Fifteen-minutes and a whopping 2200 pesetas later Luke was back home. Luke made a lame attempt to argue about the fare. The fare was 900 pesetas, when he had taken the cab to Expo his first night. He heard the rumor the taxis were starting to gouge, as the fair got nearer. He cursed again that he couldn’t challenge the driver’s outrageous fare and considered not paying at all. He figured the authorities would side with the taxi driver. Besides, what a fix he’d be in if he missed the opening. “Bandito! Bandito!” he shouted, not sure if he was really speaking Spanish as he tossed the money towards the driver. He was down to $600 in cash.

*          *          *

What would turn out to be much more monumental, so huge, if pulled off, the deed would having far-reaching consequences world wide, something of which Luke had no way of predicting . . . but a soothsayer could envision, see into the future at the tsunami of evil, intelligent power with our Luke, being in its path. That tsunami was already set in motion and on an irreversible course. Despite his present dilemma having Luke dealing with the trivia of WWF, Harry, Gary, with Spanish, his shrunken life, whatever.

In the near future Luke would find himself in the very cross hairs of a 500 year show down! A showdown placing Luke Warm in harms way, directly in the path of the razor-sharp, ruthless, Louis Virgo!

We’ve heard the quote, “Beware of the Ides of March!”

No one, other than a soothsayer, predicted the turbulence that would take place July 25, 1992, Saint James Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writings, commentaries, scripts from Journalist, Essayist, Novelist, Screenwriter, Playwriter Lou Christine, Philadelphia & Hawaii, Brah, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!