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 cut-throats 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 hitman of all time.
For two-decades Virgo snaked round the world, eluding law-enforcement agencies while fulfilling clandestine obligations. Flashing expertly counterfeited passports, and while masquerading in a slew of remarkable disguises while added to his abilities, the knack 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 employers 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 that 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.
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 between them. He spoke in French.
Virgo queried Miguel about what kept him? Just 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, jig-saw puzzle.
The plan, if properly orchestrated, would rip the linens off of Spain’s carefully set table. The time had come for them to shatter Espana’s dreams. All of Spain’s ambitious plans and 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, had the flat stocked 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, who were more-than-likely, surely at-that-very-moment diligently mustering their own resources, preparing for all possibilities on their own. 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 an old Gypsy woman, who was a transient. 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 court room and as soon as the vindicated one came breezing out of the court room, 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 had been threatened by sore-losers in the past. The latest just happened to be in the form of a curse and wasn’t taken all that seriously by the threesome.
Soon thereafter, according to Bachman’s rat-a-tat-tat, the vindicated townie had 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 had taken 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 had been stricken with 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, hideous finger pointing towards 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, all the while cognizant when thinking back that 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 oldman 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 man hunt 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 man 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, private Virgo, displayed some unusual out-of-character behavior. 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 thriller. 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, that 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 he had insured his own success by exercising his talents skillfully and consistently.
He professed to be in awe of an enemy, who had 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 so, that the old Gypsy man would be forced to let-go of the curse, by passing it on to somebody else. Further he would have him share its secrets of the curse with him exclusively.
He bragged how his black chip would be, about how he’d promise the old-Gypsy, his wife back miraculously. After all Virgo concluded, “Spiritual people such as Gypsies have faith, and believe in timo, which they consider mastered tricks. Surely he could be sold, and counted-on to have faith in such a feasibility.”
A confident Virgo figured that Gypsies were open to all business propositions.
Virgo continued to paint the picture, and with his persuasive charm, he claimed that he would approach the Gypsy man. 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 get 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 in the future, and for the fun of it never bother to relieve the emaciated lawyer and he’d permit him to evaporate into thinner air.
Vulgarly, he cackled at his own maniacal thoughts.
It became obvious to Miguel and un-nerved him that Virgo was warply captivated by King’s novels. He shared further with Miguel, someday he’d 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. He confided with Miguel how fascinating it would be to strike a deal with King.
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 reading the novel he’d be sure to turn it over to Miguel. Virgo kept the story’s finality a secret and handed the novel over. After the three-day, two-man, terrorist convention, and when Miguel emerged from the flat, Thriller 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, tucking himself into an alleyway close by, regretfully observed his long-time friend trashing his well-meant gift.
Virgo shelved any sort of vindictiveness and doubts. Then they were irrelevant. He had not 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 as part of why Virgo recruited Miguel in the first place. Virgo teamed up with Miguel and was confident he would do his part. Still the same, he couldn’t help but be disappointed how his so-called brother in terrorism led him along and 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 had failed before them, getting-even for all those who fell, or were captured, and wrongly persecuted. For those slighted throughout Espana’s history they would disrespectfully strip away from all of Spain its pride, and its 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 had him 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, 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 that had made it a habit for generations, to abstain from blind loyalty. They made it exclusively their business, “which side of the street” they decided to walk on. By the ‘80s, Virgo, long-ago, had disbanded and abandoned his associations with the Black Wing. He was strictly, solamente.
Virgo had 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, 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.
Because Louis Virgo said so! Without Virgo’s ties in 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 had no desires for cuddling, not even a hug. As for hugs—he possessed a stronger urge—the urge to smother. That’s 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 get one either by charm or cash. Those who he let go could consider themselves lucky.
Wealthy by birth, and further enriched by devious deeds, according 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. The two Oscar-winners, including all their performances, may have been considered as pale compared to his.
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.
It was decided by the high council that it would be better to bring in an outsider, a pro. The neighborhood was an armed encampment, and was loaded with informers. Snitches lurked on every corner. Nothing happened in the neighborhood without the thugs knowing about it. Most of the precinct cops were on the renegade don’s payroll. The rogue don was tipped off that he had been out of line. He suspected an attempted hit. He watched his step.
Virgo was on the case. After staking out the fallen-out-of-grace, Mafioso neighborhood, Virgo knew he would be unable to just walk up and blow the guy away. Instead, to get closer, and observe the movements of the don, he applied for a menial job as a gas attendant, at an all-night station. Virgo strongly suspected that 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 that stayed open, near-bye 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 Aires, and stooped to become a laborer. His hands became soiled and greasy; dirtier, his spirits rose up to a weirdo bliss. It was 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, and 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 land the don within the confines of the station Virgo worked seven nights a week. He told the station’s manager he had lots of kids to support. 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 was positive that he had arrived . . . 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 about it, 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 he had a chance 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 sedan’s middle. The driver sent the window back up, satisfied that the schlep had gone back to put gas in the tank.
The wise guys relaxed within the safe confines of their bulletproof limo. 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?”
Beneath the show, he was nervous. 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 that camouflaged inside an oil rag wrapping it around the other side-door handles. The men inside never detected how he finagled the Velcro.
“Fuck a bunch of oil hick! Just fill it the fuck up ass-hole, and make it snappy!” came an annoyed and even gruffer voice from inside.
“Yes sir! Fill it up! Right away sir.”
Virgo not panicking, his veneer still in tack, took his time leaning back off the glass, and he maintained his real 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 held the hose to the sky, and showered 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 enough time 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. He arced another stream. This time it was a shower high-octane coming down onto the roof of the burning sedan.
Struggling, the men partially opened the strapped doors. Seeing a chance for escape; Virgo sent a stream directly towards 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 to be more of an it rather than a he. The victim, then a ball of flames, took on the characteristics of a fast-moving blazing tumbleweed, as it rolled towards the curb. 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 limo. There was no hope for any of them.
Virgo threw down the pump down, and made tracks. He realized for the first time, that all during the goings on, that he heard nothing inside his head, except for a humming sound. It was only after the men were 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 still being in tack. 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 up. He felt giddy. He regained his focus, taking caution, knowing that he was still in enemy territory.
That was all right though. With him he had help. He had a gun and he had his car. 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 had 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 up there were concerned. In Indiana, the FBI. granted immunity to a small-time accountant, who had been washing big-time, out-of-state, drug money, through some 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 some secret spot, and being kept under heavy guard. On the sunny morning when the accountant was supposed to drop the names, and places of his accomplices, he was cautiously escorted out of the feds secret hide-out by a dozen, heavily-armed, FBI. men.
Two sleek, stretch limo’s waited right outside. The FBI. taking no chances had bomb-sniffing dogs snoop-out the entire area around the apartment house beforehand. All of the men departing, including the soon-to-be testifying accountant, dressed in identical, blue-blazers, gray-slacks and mirrored-sun-glasses. Matched to size of their star witness, the contingent of FBI. 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.
All the look-alikes scrambled out the doors, down the steps and squeezed into the two limos. They zoomed away from 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 of the limos, slamming their doors, then forming together as a unit, and stormed up the marble steps of the court of justice. Reporters, cameramen and onlookers rushed the sunglassed, blue-blazered, slicked-back-hair dozen — leaving behind, and deserting the two look-alike drivers.
No time was allowed for the reporters to ask questions. As the throng disappeared behind the closed doors, reporters and the rest would have to wait for the stooge’s testimony inside the courtroom. The two limos slowly pulled around to the side of the court building, and headed down a ramp towards a parking garage. Because the two, limo drivers weren’t familiar with the parking garage, they didn’t notice, that a parking-lot traffic sign had been tampered with. An arrow directing where the limos should park had been turned in the opposite direction. The two limos rolled towards two underground parking spots, at a far corner of the garage. Mostly everyone was upstairs attending what they thought was to be the “Main Event.”
It turned out that 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.
The FBI.’s Indianapolis and Washington bureaus after the debacle said, they were absolutely positive, that they had a thorough, well-thought-out plan, including back up systems.
First, the look-a-like disguises . . . second, by having everyone think the star witness was clumped in the group, 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. They were too clever–maybe too cute for their own good. Their in-house security cooked their own goose. Rather the courthouse security, and Indianapolis police said, they weren’t filled in about the FBI.’s secret plan. They should have had some of their men in that garage, instead of upstairs. 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, and the frozen 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, came out shooting.
Special Agent Wilson never had 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 escape 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 see-sawed atop the men’s torn-open chests. The men with eyes wide-open, each wore the same expression. “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 news 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 there being some sort of 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 was more than likely to remain in charge of the case; probably 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. that instigated unneeded exposure, and they encouraged the press to play up the local office of the FBI., as a; “Here’s your law enforcement agency at its best.”
With that intelligence, Virgo made it a habit 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 did so on the very first day.
By following Wilson, he discovered where the star witness had been sequestered. He was being hidden in a swank-downtown-apartment complex, right next to a ritzy shopping center.
Having the exact location of the mole’s whereabouts was certainly an advantage, but Virgo summed, it might prove too dicey, risking such 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 had 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 shoppingcenter’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 had woven a physiological profile. Wilson; a typical-career government agent, who swallowed and digested the bunk about patriots, who he saw 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 organization 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 reenforced 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. It had 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; 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. There was a time he thought about taking a brief excursion over to New York for a day to snuff out Rush Limbaugh but Rush got a break.
One particular novel read by the FBI. man; The Price Of Justice sparked Virgo’s interest. The fiction novel was 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 had the prisoners disrobe, and had 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 that the replacements matched the size of their hidden subject. Virgo had the accountant’s personal statistics, plus had a good picture of him, one that 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. The 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 confines and 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’d had to step aside, and 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 had Wilson’s expiration date wrong! He had a 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 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 had already 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.
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 type, the kind used while playing backgammon. Any dice roll tallying #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. As trays were overflowing with extinguished filtered-butts that could remind one of 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 the same vigor — the same way the guys at Lucky’s used to roll. There was little conversation. The man on the sofa—Miguel Garcia. By then he had stationed himself between Seville and Zahara.
Zahara was a once sleepy ocean town down on the Atlantic Coast. The town recently had been 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 isolated himself in the apartment. In fact he wished he could be away as far as possible. His photo was plastered in just about every train and bus station, all post offices, all airports and all 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 surprised and arrested by France’s special, anti-terrorist police. With intelligence provided by Spain’s guardia civil and with the French more than eager to cooperate an international police unit moved in on the headquarters.
Miguel Garcia was the organization’s only major figure who eluded 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 had been 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 had been tucked away to turn one of Spain’s major cities 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. It wouldn’t become an issue in Spain or what would be left of it. The sluggish worldwide economy and even the American presidential race would simmer on the back burner.
Unbeknown to the cast of characters, 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. Gonsalves was the 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 was 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 had to do with marine security.
Captain Gonsalves the country’s chief sonar expert was leader and caretaker of the navy’s national under-water-detection surveillance team. Up to 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 that it had been 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 had to be 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, it was felt that that breach would probably come off the waters of the river. French-made, sonar-detection equipment had been procured and sent off to Seville along with Captain Gonsalves to Seville.
So sophisticated was the detection equipment it would be able to detect anything larger than a trout floating down the river. 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 had to become sensitized and familiar with those day in and night out noises that crop 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 had to maneuver 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 was the only person qualified to operate the temperamental equipment. The Spanish, perhaps because of their pride had refused the support services of the equipment’s French manufacture. After training Captain Gonsalves the French firm offered to send some of their own experts. The Spanish were going to protect their own property and didn’t need any Frenchmen to show them how. It had been decided at the highest levels that 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 apparent that 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 charm of a prince; guaranteeing that eventually he’d spring out the 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, up 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 had moles inside the telephone company. Captain Gonsalves had two telephones installed inside his apartment. One was a direct link to Expo. It was tap proof–the other was his personal phone, also tap proof. His personal, phone had a distinct and a somewhat higher-pitched ring than the phone connected to Expo, thanks for 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. to test the river’s security without him being there.
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 the Devils 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. They were a make-up of proud Basque who for centuries had fought every neighbor atop the Pyrenees, an effort that went on 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 had scene most action. 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 and Uncle Pablo witnessed Orwell lose his intensity and desire to lead or win for that matter, once he was wounded. Once exposed to the carnage he had no stomach for pain and 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 who had 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 that 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.
Two youths out, they had one thing in common. Namely they were 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! Both had never 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 they had been given their fair due. Those comparisons and never forgotten 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 himself through.
Miguel’s awful 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 some of 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 had 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 that Virgo was the source of the ETA.’s financing. The United States Government, by 1992, with the cooperation of France and Spain had 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 he could use.
Miguel had been on the run most of his adult life. With all of his education and contacts he was no more than a fugitive. He relied on an existence provided by those who embraced his views he’d hide with in safe houses but for 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 and had to tread 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 had 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 remained dark. It would take about 45-minutes, to an hour for the barrels to drift passed the detection equipment. If the decoys had the ability to trigger an alarm, the turned-on of lights and bevy of activity would indicate the system was armed despite the absence of the Romeo Captain.
Across the river, across the bridges, and further across the wide-sidewalks bordering Toreno boulevard sat side-by-side, three, drinking establishments, establishments 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 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 had 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 what had to be 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 and what had to be the break in tension. 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 had already been 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; R.A.C.E. 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 had been deserted by Virgo earlier, and was just two blocks away. The ten-wheel utility vehicle had a car hooked to it, hanging off of it just like a caught fish. The truck had 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, who had connections with the present-day version of the Black-Wing, that served inside the United States Navy. For sale were stolen, stealth-like, under-water, frogmen suits. The underwater gear had been 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. He purchased twelve. 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 just in midsummer’s slow-moving waters.
A plus was that the Guadalquivir River had fields of 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 use a facsimile of those reeds and breath air by extending their phony 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 that he was 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, making a payday. Expo would be in full swing and 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 that 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 door steps of the local Costra Nostra.
The prosecutor’s snooping and 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, a tough assignment in itself. The productive prosecutor’s travel arrangements were kept extremely confidential. Bertilino was capable of delegating authority from a distance and cautious, not one who ventured out or beyond the walls of his administrative offices. When he did, it was with suddenness . . . and with many guards.
Virgo studied a detailed biography on Paulo Bertilino provided to him by his benefactors. After weighing and sorting out vast sums of information, Virgo summed up how to get close enough to make the kill. 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 had already tipped her hand. Virgo understood that 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 policemen’s 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 out of 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 and boiling on a hot stove. At the same time, mama hummed away, not being able to shake the tune “It’s Now or Never” tune 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 mea,l 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, had become a thorn in the side of regime that resided in Tripoli, Libya. Amnesty’s board of directors had cast an accusing finger, and shed some incriminating light upon Libya’s dastardly deeds. Assassinations and torture perpetrated by political prosecutions and delivered in the laps of malcontents. They had undeniable proof that might lead to and actually indict 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 foot-hills of the Alps, and while she enjoyed the breathe-taking vistas from 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 in an extraordinary 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 had lost control by being bullied by the BMW and was heading for a 100 meter cliff just before she became airborne!
He took a final glimpse; it was dick-gripping stuff.
Smirtz was the first woman he ever tracked-down. Less than a kilometer from the scene, he had pull over 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 they slit their throats. “They used the reeds.”
Virgo ordered the suits modified. He had ripples molded onto the front, had 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. Laying on his back he floated into the current. Steering with his hands, he drifted past the detection devices . . . undetected.
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 the Quinta-Centennial, also taking plae 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 92.
Spain bathed in a golden-light of the so-called new-order.
The official, royal itinerary, one month before, showed the king departing his palace in Madrid and off to Barcelona the morning of the 25th.
Louis Virgo thought 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, had been 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 had worn off, and what was becoming a mundane routine, with the searching and all was wearing down Expo security. So far, there had been no serious incidents, not even an errant firecracker. Other than being National Norwegian Day it was just another day where hordes of tourists 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, 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, had 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 had 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 had collected and stored every tidbit of information available regarding the personal habits of Juan Carlos. He had 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 thing. 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 to be 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. Expo had good 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 had 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 tradesman 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. 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.
St. James Day was more than three months away. Meanwhile, the alarm clock sledge hammered Luke out of his sleep. Despite being conscious he was exhausted, wracked with body ache, sore feet and legs a far cry from the energetic Luke he was the day before when popping out of bed. He didn’t feel so energetic then. That was yesterday—when he was filled with adrenalin, worrying about meeting Gary on time 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 by the yet to be seen Canadian kids he shared a room with who came home drunk. By then his mind wouldn’t shut off.
At the sound of the alarm clock, the kids lying around the floor in sleeping bags hardly stirred. For their disturbance upon him there was no getting even.
Thoughts of the forthcoming day dwarfed any enthusiasm he had 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 responsibility took on had him thinking about the job and how he had to get in to get Inez and the girls started. 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 had given little thought to language barriers and its enormities. He was almost helpless being unable to communicate or to understand virtually everything. What if somebody yelled? “Look out! Or, “get out quick! ” The fact dawned upon Luke, he’d have to watch-his-step and 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 is, so the workers, on their own, began 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 had been 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, had degrees, and would begin careers after the fair. He discovered that the attractive Minole was married. Luke would later find out from Inez, that Minole’s husband was a stay-out shark, a gambler and ladies man, who had a penchant for gambling and shooting pool.
He gave Inez instructions via his translator. He checked his checklist that he jotted down the day before. The women knew 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 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 then appearing too pooped to feed a soup line. Unshaven, scruffy, with evidence of sleepy-stuff still crusting their eyes, while appearing shabby and impoverished in rumpled-clothing, this lot was 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). And if still in the midst of comparisons 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 had been on site for more than 30 days and who had an assignment would get paid—that day.
Those hanging in there with yet to receive assignments were yet on the clock. Gary then up-dated everybody on the status of the seven WWF restaurants that had yet to open. Once they were equipped he’d issue assignments. 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 had come afar on their word, 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 and 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, it all would come out about how Harry and Gary had embellished their work-plans, lied and ignored the guidelines set by Expo.
Rather it be hiding the fact they were 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.
Through Graff and well-placed bribes WWF was fortunate enough to procure an early contract as to feed the Fair’s construction workers and had done 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 that 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 speed into unauthorized areas when all clear signals had not been given.
He’d threatened Expo officials, saying he had influential people in high places and said he’d expose the fair for having bias policies while threatening them to the media, 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 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 he implored 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 did a 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 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. In all actuality he 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 bye, some had to relent, when they reached an impasse or were unable to pin blame on one another, it was that 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-up; Harry Gross’s so-called mavens were a mishmash of “used-to-be’s” and “never-were’s.” Most had 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 had to swallow hard and take 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 had taken his spill a long time ago. Instead of comparing himself against the others, it might be healthy 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 had to get used to the idea that 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; many of the WWF managers had genuine talent. Many had 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 had a nasty cut. The girls wanted to escort her to one of the near-by infirmaries. Inez was in obvious distress but 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 some 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, 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?”
“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?”
“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, 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 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, that 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 that 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 that 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 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 so 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, 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 days 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 they were filled with boredom. Luke hung around the restaurant waiting for things like the phone to be installed. A break in the monotony was that 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 the freezer. 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 had recently become fans of American Football, since Barcelona had an entry in the recently established International Football League and they wanted to know if 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 had been 900 pesetas, when he had taken the cab to Expo his first night. He had 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.
On top of that and what would turn out to be much more monumental, so huge if pulled off, it would having long-reaching consequences world wide of which, Luke had no way of predicting . . . heading toward the loser, Luke, on a irreversible course yet having no way of knowing at that point Luke was in for a show down. A showdown that would place the beaten-down, out-of-place, Luke Warm in harms way, directly in the path of the razor-sharp, ruthless, Louis Virgo!
In a few short months Luke would encounter highs and lows and had no way of knowing that he would stand in the cross hairs between the King and the monster Louis Virgo.
The Spanish thing, meaning the lack of speaking or understanding the language would show as minor, comparing to a show down with Virgo. During the day-to-day Luke couldn’t communicate verbally with the average Spaniard. As mentioned beforehand, speaking to people had been the brash Lucky’s, and even Luke’s greatest asset. Luke considered himself as a master communicator. In Spain, it appeared as if his confident, quick-wit and reassuring attitude were held in check. His tone and past use of pinpoint, piercing, oracles were all frozen within him. When he did talk . . . it was all garble. Nobody understood his utterances the first time. Never had Luke faced such a problem. What used to be so simple was then so complex. The language barrier stood rock-solid and wasn’t likely to budge or be dismantled in one or two nights yet in English or Spanish, Luke or Lucky, Harry or Gary, Johhny S., Carmen or Heather had to way of knowing, or comparing, or predicting the significance of Luke’s presence that would take place on Saint James Day, July 25, 1992.
While Luke beefed with the cab driver a few miles away at the nave, a bevy of activity was taking place. Johnny S. stood on the company’s shipping dock, supervising the loading of frozen hamburgers hot-dogs, pizza-sauce, fresh-produce and assortment of other products; all being fitted into the trucks and vans that made up the beaten-up fleet of WWF. Logistically WWF was a nightmare. Essential items needed for preparation, to sell, wrap, and for the discarding of trash, so far were items that couldn’t be counted on as part of WWF’s warehouse stock. On day one of the fair, there would be no ketchup for the burgers and dogs. At the same time; they had enough pizza sauce in the warehouse’s giant fridge to refloat the Titanic and maybe enough left over to carry them through for another fair, but only if it were extra busy. The waffle mix’s recipe — tasteless — it would be ironed out insipidly without flavor from the lack of vanilla extract.
Despite Johnny S.’s conscientious over-seeing, at that very moment, warehousemen were mistakenly loading R400’s burger-buns into the lettuce van, which wasn’t slated to stop by R400 that particular night. R403’s, entire supply of orange-plastic trash bags would not make it on the delivery truck. That over-site alone would create an mini environmental catastrophe the next day. For Heather and Carmen it would turn out to be a personal disaster. They would have to scramble around depleting their energy, utilizing valuable and short-handed personnel, trying to find a place to stash loads of trash and garbage. Things were going to be screwed up.
Johnny S. while weeding through the invoices, and then checking the goods, found enough mistakes on his own. Important inventory was missing, items strewn in the wrong piles and so forth
Johnny, maintaining his composure just “hmmed,” after he bent over to count. With each finding of a essential items missing he’d blurt out, “Dumb mother-fuckers!”
He summoned over Brett and Jose. For Jose’s benefit he’d speak in Spanish.
“Jose! por favor! ?Que pasa?”
He’d did his best to paste an understanding smile on his face, to not blame Jose. The Spanish warehouseman, more than ready to explain, machine-gunned back in rapid fashion. He extended a handful of manifests. He defended his loading procedures, ones given to him by Gary and stated that the goods marked on the manifests were the ones loaded on the trucks tht had been designated for the R-Restaurants. He further attempted to vindicate and his crew himself from further accusations; telling Johnny S. that he didn’t know the make-up of the restaurants nor was he aware about which ones used what. He accentuated his exasperation; after all his job was to just load trucks. Jose made it a point to mention that so far they waisted mucho tiempo searching for items that weren’t in the existing inventory.
Brett; a Canadian kid standing next to Jose seconded Jose’s lament. He repeated much of what Jose said . . . this time in English, in case Johnny S. didn’t understand Jose’s complaint.
Johnny S. could gave Jose a blank stare but had the gist of what he said and changed the subject somewhat so to let things cool down. “God-damn! . . . The Spanish talk fast, don’t they?” He extended his smile’s length of stay, attempting to pacify Jose’s woes and still took Brett at his word
Brett was another story. Brett had wondered into the warehouse a few weeks earlier. He was another lost soul who lassoed on to what was supposed to be the good, universal, vibes of a gigantic World Exposition. The fair’s motto was coined by its promoters as the “The Age of Discovery.” Good-will, international cooperation and a mutual understanding were Expo ’92s themes.
That would have been news to Brett. So far Brett hadn’t even been on-site. As a matter of fact he had not left the confines of the huge warehouse since the first day he arrived, perhaps because he had absolutely no transportation, and like many of the others poor souls who worked for WWF, he was totally busted out. He ate the not-so-tasty offerings from the company’s prep-kitchen in the warehouse’s rear, and only after 16-hour shifts. He’d try and sleep up on a wooden-planked loft, despite the round-the-clock racket below.
He had made a little nest for himself upstairs in the warehouse after he cleared away some lumber; mostly two-by-fours and after he swept away at least two inches of fine-dust. He salvaged a filthy piece of foam-rubber. Brett covered the foam with a piece of card-board then laid his sleeping-bag on top. He had no money, no car, no nothing. He went no-where and for that matter he could have been in Newark, New Jersey. There were a few other phantoms of WWF’s warehouse — those who eked out an existence up near its rafters, a couple of Americans, an Englishman and a Dutchman. They too also arrived at WWF more or less the same way as Brett. By then they were part of the big show ”The Age of Discovery.” Only thing was they needed somebody to tell them.
Brett told Johnny S. about how that day he overheard the warehouse manager Rudy complaining. Seems a computer program, ordered by Rudy from a California computer soft-ware company had been sent back to the original sender. The computer disc had been flown into Seville by an air-freight forwarding company but as fast as it got to Seville it was promptly sent back. The C.O.D. on the small package came to $474 in U.S. dollars.
Because of the package’s size, Harry and Gary who happened to be at the nave, and they vetoed the $474 C.O.D. Both insisted there had to be some mistake. They never even bothered to call around to try and find out who, or if someone ordered the soft-ware. Harry had Gloria tell the local office of the air-freight forwarder that there had to be some sort of mistake. He preached to the WWF office staff for more than a half hour; after they were scheduled to go home, that if WWF paid for something like that and it turned out not to befor them, then it might take months for the air-forwarding company to refund the company its money back. Harry said, that the policy was always better to send the package back no matter what was inside. Let them straighten it out. Somehow Gloria remembered Harry paying $2,000 for air-freight for the same size package at one time and she suspected that that package contained cocaine.
That type of rationing; another example of Harry and Gary’s ole’ “save a penny and lose a buck philosophy.” Because they didn’t accept the package and because those two mental-midgets possessed the far-sight of Edsel automobile designers, the office and warehouse could not put into play their well-thought-out plan, to keep tabs on inventory. In addition the disc’s program included a vital data-processing procedure that would help with payroll. Instead, they went on to implement an inept, flawed and eventually doomed to failure warehouse plan.
It would be three weeks and hundreds of lost man-hours before another disc arrived. Additional shipping charges bumped the COD charges up the next time to a $598 COD. The computer-program debacle was just another example how WWF’s management squandered, hesitated, and changed their wishy-washy minds. After almost two years of constant turmoil WWF’s clerical team’s “esprit de corps” was emotionally drained.
On opening day customers with mayonnaise hanging off their chins would have no napkins — they’d complain. The frazzled employees griped to the managers. The badgered managers would holler at the delivery drivers and cry over the phone to the warehouse and office. The drivers bugged maintenance. The office managers would bitch to other warehouse managers. It was a free for all. But it wasn’t a free ride for those who had trusted Harry and Gary and bank-rolled them to the tune of cool 100K for each point of WWF stock..
By 6:00 a.m. on opening morning all of the delivery trucks, except for Johnny’s had departed WWF’s warehouse heading for the site. Johnny S. and Jose loaded some essential items that had been left behind. They loaded bits and pieces of inventory for each of the seven restaurants. Johnny rumbled his straight-job truck towards the service gate. Johnny had been driving past the secured gates for over a year and too many times to count. Security was unusually tight. Each truck needed to be accreditable. That meant that inside the cab or on the windshield needed to have displayed a good-sized laminated plastic card with accreditation numbers printed on it.
Once the fair opened, deliveries could be made on site during certain hours; after 11:00 p.m. The policy meant, if certain items were not loaded on the truck or if they didn’t make it on for one reason or another; well, that meant that the goods would have to wait at least twenty-fours hours before those goods could be brought back onto the site. Johnny S. acting as a safety-net took it upon himself to deliver the goods that didn’t leave on the earlier trucks.
Johnny rolled his the truck up to security and brought it to a stop in front of the fair’s check-in booth. Despite the fact that the woman guard had seen Johnny and Jose go through the gate countless times they still had to show their I.D.’s along with the truck’s accreditation. Once satisfied they were permitted to drive a little further, then only to be stopped by a cadre of sky-capped guards and the National Police for further inspection. Johnny hopped out of the truck, pissed about the delay. The guards instructed him to open the hood. That entailed having Jose, who was riding shot-gun to get out of the front seat and assist Johnny flip over the entire cab because the engine of the truck sat under the seat. The Police used a t.n.t. checking device; a meter which scanned the engine. Another security officer rested a round mirror on the cup portion of truck jack, rolled it under the truck to inspect the chaises. Using flash lights they peered at the mirror’s reflection to see if anything suspicious had been hidden underneath. Other guards, without Johnny’s permission opened up the back doors of the van.
Hearing the back-door being rolled up Johnny high-tailed towards the rear of the truck.
“?Ques en el interior?” the guard asked, wanting to know exactly what was inside.
Eduardo Sanchez, said the name tag pinned to his jacket. Eduardo also had pinned to his uniform a variety of pins; the replica kind. He collected, traded or bartered for an assortment of pins from various national pavilions. Johnny S. begrudgingly handed over a manifest while continuing to scan the guard’s maroon jacket. Johnny checked out the pin-collection made up of tin flags. He admired somewhat; Spain, Canada, South Africa, Great Briton. Johnny S. had been pestering Harry and Gary to have a pim made up for WWF, for uses to bribe the pin-hungry guards, a PR move that might make coming and going a little easier at the service gates.
Eduardo was all business as he hopped up inside the delivery van. It was jammed packed all the way to the rear. The guard without hesitation, ordered Johnny to start unloading. Johnny tried to object but the guard held up his hand. He told Johnny in certain terms if he wanted to get the goods onto the site at all he had better shut-up. Johnny uttered a litany of mother-fuckers under his breath and with Jose at his side they began to yank-off the truck’s payload. The van’s rear platform was high off the ground. The height of the truck made the crates difficult for Johnny and Jose to grab; typical for a Harry Gross operation, there was no hydraulic lift gate. The guard probed. He even had a thermometer in his pocket to check the temperatures of various perishables.
With about a quarter of the truck’s then un-loaded, boxes and crates of breads and can goods spread all over the ground, Eduardo, with Johnny over his shoulder probed further. Eduardo came upon five cases of lettuce, ones marked for R403. Johnny, wishfully-thinking; perhaps Eduardo Sanchez was satisfied. Johnny’s way of thinking was that the guard should have been pacified enough, after all he had a chance to bust their balls. He rattled their cage. He proved he was the boss at the gate and surely by then he understood that there was no nuclear bomb or anything harmful hidden in the rear.
Johnny sized up the guy as being no more than “Christmas help.” In six months he’d be in the unemployment line the way he flaunted his badge, and his boy-scout flashlight. It probably was the first real job that the kid ever had.
“Malo! Malo!” Eduardo erupted, pointing to the cases of lettuce and making a face.
“No malo!“ snapped back a defiant Johnny S., pulling from a crate and holding up a head of lettuce. “Freso! Bueno! ”
“No! no! no! permiso letchuga con productives seco! No vegetal con productives seco . . . prohibir!”
“I know that lettuce is a vegetable asshole! So what? . . . It’s in cases, the lettuce isn’t touching anything. Give me a break for Christ’s sake! It’s been a hell of a night!”
There were defined rules set up by Expo, indicating that dry-goods could not be accompanied inside delivery vehicles along with perishables. Johnny S. was aware of the rule, but because he was the last chance to get those goods on site, he took a risk. Johnny couldn’t make too much of a fuss ‘cause there were other surprises for Eduardo to find further inside. Frozen goods, that should have been shipped exclusively with frozen goods and so forth and so on. Johnny S. had frozen chickens stuffed inside egg crates.
The guard couldn’t dicsect what Johnny was saying when he tried to explain in broken Spanish his dilemma about the mix-ups.
It didn’t sell.
Johnny and Jose were forced to unload the unauthorized lettuce and laid the cases outside the truck. Eduardo continued probing in the truck’s rear, searching for other infractions. Johnny and Jose carted the five crates of unauthorized lettuce back out past the gate and abandoned them behind a trash dumpster. It was another example of waste. There would be no lettuce delivered to R403 that night.
Johnny and Jose returned to the truck to find Eduardo by then standing back on the ground off the truck. He hadn’t much of an expression on his face and unemotionally said, “pase.” Evidentially he hadn’t found the frozen chickens or if he did for some reason he chose to give Johnny S. a break.
Johnny couldn’t bite his tongue.
“Give a nothing a badge and he turns into a fucking creep. Suck this buddy!” Johnny said before getting back into his cab to drive away. He brushed by Eduardo showing a great deal of contempt. He was late and upset.
Bye opening day of the fair the exhausting trek for Luke became more or less routine. His foot blisters had burst, the skin dried, and had hardened. Corns on his toes were his latest foot problem. The friction created by the stitching inside his Air Jordon’s had done a number on the outside of his two pinkies. Luke’s fingers still had an assortment of cuts and scratches but most by then were scabbed. He couldn’t remember walking as much or working harder than he had for those past two weeks. A silver lining in that bag of hardhsips was perhaps, that he began to drop some of his “pudge.”
Luke arrived by 8:00 a.m. On his way he met Paco. They sat together. Luke tried out some new Spanish on Paco. They still had to rely on many hand signals and comparisons. At the gate they said, “adios.”
At R415 Raul and Juaquin stood waffle-ready. A certain excitement lingered in the air. All Seville had been anticipating opening day for more than eight years. The restaurant itself had been opened on a trial run for over a month but had yet to experience the full brunt brought on by a mass deluge of people. World’s Fair. Expo officials predicted a large crowd.
At 9 o’clock the first fairgoers stormed through the gates. They had been lined up outside for hours. Hundreds of thousands, of mostly Spaniards came to see first-hand what their spoken for pesetas had paid for. Most of Spain’s revenue experts predicted that Spaniards would be still paying for the fair well into the next century. Despite the costs Expo officials remained confident that the nation’s taxpayers would be elated.
From the opening bell, fairgoers were three-deep all around the three-food sections on the peripheral of R415. Luke, Raul, and Juaquin manned two banks of gas-lit waffle irons. In the waffle section alone there were five cash registers ready for action. Ten expediters, poised themselves behind the money takers, and would run to fill orders for Cokes and Fanta’s, fill up cones with soft-ice-cream, delve out pastries and provide coffee and espresso. Lest they forget the primary mission: to serve waffles with all their toppings.
Luke had produced three batches of waffle mix the night before. He figured that he’d take a wait and see attitude; he’d see how it would go and if need be he’d make some more during the day. He mixed up enough mix to make at least fifteen-hundred waffles according to Rene’s baker recipe. The process was somewhat lengthily, it had taken about an hour’s time to whip-up a fresh batch. Perhaps the most difficult part of the process was dealing with old Bill’s ingredients list which came with the recipe.
The recipe called for some items to be measured out in kilograms, others in milligrams, and others in old-fashioned American ounces. R415’s kitchen scales only measured out in kilograms. Some ingredients were American made, others European. Luke wondered why WWF or Bill or Harry just didn’t bother to purchase already made instant waffle mix, the kind that they used to back on Cape Cod. Bill’s recipe called for portions of: flour, frozen-egg-whites, frozen-egg-yellows, salt, baking-powder, milk, sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream. The ingredients were to be whipped for twenty minutes at different speeds, during different intervals, on the big Hobart mixer and were all part of a complicated, dirty, back-breaking process.
There weren’t any appropriately sized containers to store the mix into afterwards. For that matter, there wasn’t a container large enough or readily available to accept the stirred-up goods from of the Hobart’s mixing vat. No one during the years of planning took into account that the mix needed to be poured and then transported out-front to the waffle irons. The night before Luke had made a real mess when attempting to pour the finished product into an empty lettuce tub and then transferring it into a cleaned out mop bucket that later would be placed next to the waffle irons. With a ladle, they would spread the thick batter onto piping-hot waffle irons. Despite the short-comings, fresh, hot, waffles would be served. Because there was no vanilla extract, the finished product was somewhat insipid. Spruced up by spreading margarine, shaking on powdered-sugar, pouring on chocolate-syrup, or doused with strawberries and whipped cream toppings, the waffles became more flavorful.
At first, the crowds weren’t too demanding and were more interested in their morning fix of coffee, juice and pastries. During the lull in the action, ample time was allowed to make up some scrumptious-looking samples.
The procedure for handling the customers had been rehearsed amongst the crew. After taking an order and collecting the money, Inez or one of the other girls dashed back to the waffle irons and hollered out their waffle orders. It might sound something like this:“Dos gofres con chocolate and azugar!” The orders after an hour or so started to come in hot and heavy; “quartro gofres, nada con fruta! . . . Por favor, ocho gofres, este camino: primero; . . . dos chocolate, . . . entonces, tres con mantequilla y azugar . . . tres, nada y fruta!” The rush was on.
Luke supervised the sudden rush. The girls started tp become panic-stricken, due to their lack of experience and the noisy clamoring of customers demanding gofres caliente rapido. Luke, as best he could reassured the girls and encouraged them. He pacified the waiting customers in mime. Dividing his time, he policed the area, keeping it clean. He kept a watchful eye on Juaquin and Raul and assisted them from time to time when they had trouble scrapping waffles off the hot-irons. Timing was the key; if they separated the irons too soon, the not yet cooked waffle would separate and goop up the irons, then it could take as long as five minutes or so to clean up, before the iron could be put back into service. If ironed for too long; a hard, charred, card-board-tasting brick is all there would be.
Luke from his duty station peered across the restaurant; there seemed to be a riot going on over in pizza and hamburgers sections. He never remembered seeing or hearing anything like it, not even during his furniture liquidation days. The masses pressed hard up against the counters and against each other. Spaniards were wolfing down the American style offerings at a furious pace. Kenny, instead of supervising was frying burgers. His people were dealing out the burger filled buns the way black-jack coupiers deal out hands of black jack in Atlantic City or Las Vegas on the Fourth of July. Whole boxes of frozen burgers and fries were being tossed onto the grill or dumped into the French fryers. It was none stop action. Empty burger and fry boxes littered the restaurant floor, no one took the time to carry the empties out back to the dumpster. When-ever they ran out of something, somebody rushed back to the restaurant’s common kitchen or storage area for this or that, get it, and rush back towards the front lines. The back kitchen was a mad-house. The kitchen staff; frantically trying to chop more onions, lettuce and tomatoes, they were shredding cheese for more pizzas and it looked as if they were already losing the battle. Outside in the trenches they were already running out of all prepped foods. The work-horse Hobart was huffing and puffing while mixing up more pizza dough.
Luke took in the scene while standing in the kitchen. Fifteen, mostly women, teamed up like cannoneers in a sea battle. Pots and pans were being scrubbed, five sinks all ran at the same time. Coffee beans were grinding, garbage disposals gurgling, knives chopped and lettuced heads were split open with a wallop.
Clamoring customers insisted they be served quickly so they could get back to Canada, New Guinea or some other Expo exhibit. The cash registers were singing to their own tune but every once in a while they’d create their own crisis by jamming or breaking down.
By 11:30 a.m. Luke realized he’d have to whip-up more waffle batter “pronto.” He’d prefer not to leave the front line. The back kitchen was something else, only thing though, so far, he was the only worker familiar with the recipe. Nobody spoke enough English, except Kenny and he had his hands full. It was impossible to tell anyone how to do it. Luke decided to grab two girls and take them into the back to show them or at least to start a fresh batch, so next the time they could begin the process on their own.
Despite earlier preparations they weren’t prepared and it was apparent Luke searched the store-room for the essential ingredients. He had to climb over stacked boxes and sacks of flour, stuff that was simply dumped in front of the door because they were too busy to put anything away. Out of the walk-in fridge he lugged frozen egg-whites, while the girls procured egg yokes and cream.
“Let’s see,” he said, “10; kilograms of flour, . . . 6 kilo’s of egg-whites.” Luke read the rest of the recipe, then went on to double check, seeing to it that all the ingredients were laid out before him on a stainless-steel work table. Pointing to the recipe, he ordered Mary-Carmen to weigh-out and place 10; kilo’s of flour into the Hobart’s vat. “entonces, (and then) 10; litro’s de leche. “
Luke testing his Spanish reading ability read outloud the Spanish instructions, rather than those in English, for the benefit of the two girls. After reading off, in what order the goods should be placed into the vat, he then read out loud the time-tables. “Primero; mixta por dos minitos, media rapido. . . Segunda; mixta producto mas rapido por ses minitos.” Luke didn’t do too bad a job with the translation.
Luke, confident that he had the girls off to a good start left them momentarily to check on Raul and Juaquin, who he had earlier abandoned, while leaving them to face their own baptism under fire. The front line looked even more frantic than when he left. Fair goers almost climbing over the front counters were yelping for service. “Por favor, Por favor! they pleaded. The girls did the best they could.
The Zanusi espresso machine made that constant gurgling noise as it heated up the milk for the cappuccinos. As stated by Harry, half of the ice-cream cones were broken, Luke suspected from rough handling in the warehouse — the girls were forced to go through the crumbled cones until they found a whole one. A nifty orange juice maker; a contraption with a two-foot long wire shoot extended from its crush section. The shoot was angled so the oranges, after being loaded, just rolled into ‘squeezeville’ on a non-stop basis. The juicer’s squeezing apparatus hadn’t stopped rotating for over three hours. Squeezed-to-death orange rinds littered the floor. Full beer barrels, filled with Cruz Campo Cerveza were being rolled through the restuarant in the same frenzied cannoneer manner to be tapped. The tapped out sounding empty ones were rolled outside just as fast.
“Mucho heilo!” had become WWF’s war cry. The management had “mucho heilo,” drummed into them by Harry and Gary; subsequently each manager on his own browbeat the girls to load those soft drink cups up to the top with lots of ice. The empty space inside the cup is where the soda went. Taking up as much space with ice, which was way cheaper than soda. There’s profit, big profit and they could multiply that profit with forty-million, thirsty, visitors in a place that the temperature gets up to 100 degrees. There lyed their bonuses. There was a vision in all managers minds; seeing Harry standing up at that meeting, making an inch and half gap between his finger and thumb — that space he pointed out if not replaced with ice, in lieu of soda; why that amount could mean as much as $250,000 in product costs!
Meanwhile the new restaurant, which earlier had been swept clean and had its sparkling-new tables, umbrellas and chairs all clean and neatly lined up in rows, ready for action, were by then a stirred-up mess. Paper cups, plates and wrappers piled up everywhere the way snow does after a storm. Nobody could keep up.
Under the circumstances Raul and Juaquin were doing a yeomen effort. They were able on the most part to keep up with the pace of the waffle munchers. They began running dangerously low on batter. Satisfied that Raul and Juaquin had things under control. The money was pouring in, especially bills of large denominations. Luke zoomed from register to register to check for smaller bills and change. Sure enough, they were running low. He extracted the larger bills from the registers and went to in the back to find R415’s general-manager: Christie; Gary’s girlfriend. She had the combination for the change safe.
Out front, they may as well have been manning the walls of the Alamo. They were on the verge of being overwhelmed. So in the back of the restaurant, next to the change safe, away from the action Christie was “yacking” on the phone. At first Luke didn’t want to act impolite and just interrupt. After fidgeting in front of her Luke flashed the currency and lip synced, “C-H-A-N-G-E.” She almost ignored him raising a finger like, “I’ll be with ya . . .” From what Luke could hear and under the circumstances, her talk seemed frivolous and chucked full of easy-going chit chat, filled with “uh-uhs, sweeties, and honeys.” She added phrases such as; “that sounds like fun, and I’ll see if Gary wants to take off.” It didn’t sound as if she was talking business. Luke interrupted again as politely as possible, holding out the cash more adamantly, while an air-headed Christie was saying, “Oh is that so . . . ” He made it unmistakably plane that he needed change, right away.
Luke gave up on the wait and went back to waffles. A full five minutes lapsed; and Christie was still on the phone. Luke dashed to the storage area and unpacked some soft-drink cups of which were running low and quickly went in search for a dwindling supply of plastic waffle plates. He was back again but Christie merely gave him a blank stare and she sort of waved him off as if she was saying that she’d be with him when she got off.
He whizzed by the two girls in the back, who he had left earlier and they were still mixing the waffle batter. Over his shoulder he said,“?Que pasa?”
In lieu of a finished product they had perplexed expressions on their faces. Luke put on the brakes and went over to look in the vat, The mix appeared soupy. Luke went over the instructions again with Minole and Silvia. He further quizzed them about the ingredients, and after stirring the mix with a wooden paddle, he knew damn-right well that it wouldn’t hold. He couldn’t figure it out. After all, just the night before he produced a good mix from the exact recipe, a thicker looking one.
Out of the blue he heard from behind him in crisp English, “I bet she didn’t take into account the weight of that tin bucket and she weighed it along with the flour!”
The tall young man wearing a WWF red polo shirt, clutched the tin bucket in his hands. “This bucket probably weighs at least 2 kilograms. I reckon you’re at least 20% short of the main ingredient. No wonder it’s runny.”
Luke had turned around at the first sound of the man’s voice. The fellow surely was with the company, he also was sporting one of those Hawaii baseball caps; one of the cheap ones. Just as surprisingly he then turned and spoke to the girls; verbalizing in a fluent, precise, Spanish.
The fellow quizzed the girls. Both girls simultaneously thrust up their hands to their mouths; acknowledging exactly what the young man suspected. They had weighed the bucket along with the flour. Minole fessed up that she weighed the rest of the recipe’s ingredients with the same bucket. The mix was brought back up to full strength.
A grateful Luke waisted no time, “Say pal, looks like you showed up just in the nick of time.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name? My name is Jose Manus.” A mischievous, smile gave him away. “No, no senior, my name is Javier but call me Frank. Javier-Frank es mismo . . . in case you don’t know, they’re both the same.”
“You work here? I mean haven’t seen you around before.”
“I’ve been in Australia on vacation. We returned yesterday. Gary just assigned me here. When I called in the nave he told me come here and to report to waffles. Before I left for vacation I was helping with construction over at Panama. So here I am . . . By the looks of things I suppose we’ll be working together.”
Wasting no more time Luke said, “Well, then, give me a hand with this batter will you Frank. We’re running low inside.”
Both men helped to straighten out the batter problem and carried buckets of fresh mix, so to reinforce Raul and Juaquin’s dwindling supply. As a matter of fact they were just in time ‘cause the fellows were plumb out.
Just when things seemed somewhat under some sort of control Harry, Gary and Brady came storm-trooping into the waffle section.
“Luke, what’s going on?” Harry’s way of saying, “how’s business?”
Harry finished with his niceties, didn’t waste any time getting to business. “Luke remember, “Mucho heilo!”
“We just came from Sony Plaza, the god-damned spicks are only filling the cups half-way-up with ice! . . .That’s ridiculous!”
Harry’s face cringed. He charged towards Inez. Harry scolded her. “She’s putting too much soft ice-cream into a cone.” He was all over the girl like a Paris Island drill sergeant.
After his tirade the kid was almost in tears. He was needlessly screaming in English, she had no idea what he was talking about. No one had ever spoken to her about how to do the ice-cream. What she did understand was that Harry was a mean American.
Inez was Luke’s best worker and had made tremendous efforts to help supervise her co-workers, especially about matters that concerned ice-in-cups and other cost saving techniques. She had stayed late on her own time to help. She was clean, smart and efficient. Harry was ruining her.
“For Christ sakes Luke! You’ve got to be on them. Tell these fucking broads not to put any ice cream down into the god-damned center of the cone. You heard us warn about the ice-cream dispensing at the managers meeting didn’t you? Make these bastards hold the cone sideways and have them put the custard just around the rim.”
Some other girls came to Inez’s aid and attempted to lead the distressed employee away. She’d not have it. Embarrassed, she ignored her contemporaries and stepped up to the counter to take on a waiting customer. To save additional friction Luke gingerly led Harry, Gary and Brady towards the back. Luke began to tell Harry what a good employee Inez had turned out to be, telling him about how she reacted when she cut her hand.
Harry wasn’t bothering to listen. Instead he began giving the place a white-glove inspection.
Gary left and went to sniff around the waffle irons. Before Luke had a chance to finish defending Inez, Gary began to stir things up.
“Luke for Christ sake, you let the waffle section run out of batter! What the fuck’s going on? You supposed to make enough last night?”
The affront came while Luke was trying to calm Harry. who was still having a conniption about the ice-cream. Then he was having a coronary because there was no catch-bucket under the orange-juicer. Harry was complaining about the cost of oranges; picking up rinds off the floor and saying, “you can squeeze more juice out of this one . . . look at it.”
Luke didn’t forget Gary’s holler, held Harry at bey and causally called over his shoulder, “Gary we just finished making more. It’s OK.”
“You shouldn’t have run out in the first place!”
Just then, almost in unison three cashiers screamed out, “no cambio!”
The registers were out of change!
“Shiiiit! . . .” Harry gritted his teeth and further said in a hysterical manner, “Luke you can’t let yourself run out of change. What have you been doing?”
Luke in his defense pulled from his pocket the fifty-thousand pesetas in currency that he had stuffed there earlier, when he tried to retrieve change from Gary’s chatty girl friend. Unceremoniously Harry just ripped the bills out of Luke’s hand and slapped them into a near-by Brady’s palm.
“Get some change for me will ya! And put the coins in the registers. Luke and I are going out back.”
Harry gave Luke one of those “Oh, how could you do this to me?” looks. Harry and Gary, ready to jump on Luke’s shit, escorted Luke out through the back door. Javier, Raul, Juaquin and the rest shook their heads already hip to the petty grumbling displayed by the “jefes grandes.”
“Look fucker! . . . I know you haven’t worked a joint for a long time. The fair’s already started. The sand is running through the glass — you understand? I got six months to earn back six and a half million big ones. I can’t afford anybody like you fucking around. You’re supposed to be here to help. Just because you and I are casual friends, who might have screwed around together; doesn’t mean you’re some fucking Prima Donna and you can come over here and jerk-off. Now you go in there and make those bastards work. The way I see it you’re losing business. That can’t happen. I won’t stand for it. All I want to see, when I walk into one of my joints, is elbows and ass-holes!
“According to Christie, I hear you been talking up a big game with the crew. Let’s see you back it up.”
Looking up, Harry’s eyes latched onto Brady’s coming out the back door, who by then had filled the registers with back-up coinage and small bills. He joined Luke, Harry, and Gary. There was a cold chill in the air. Harry didn’t give Luke a chance for any sort of explanation. It didn’t matter though ‘cause Luke wasn’t about to give him one anyway.
“C’mon Brady were out of here. We’ve got to get to R403.”
They left Luke was shaking and beginning to gyrate into some sort of St. Vitis dance. They fucked with him and deserted him the same way they had the first night he arrived. In disbelief he watched the pompous three-some move away, themselves, independently dialing numbers up on their cellulars, probably to bust somebody else’s balls. They weaved their torsos out of site through the crowded fairgrounds on their way to R403.
Luke felt empty and sick to his stomach. He had to take control of his body. There was a chance that he might loose control of his bowels. Luke bore down taking back control yet unable to corral the rage inside his mind.
The entire endeavor had been a fiasco. He came to a grim conclusions tht nothing had gone right. He was exhausted, angry, almost broke and . . . as much as he hated to admit, he was afraid. They could fire him if they liked. He was deflated.
Standing there with in the middle of the fair with hundreds of people in the immediate vicinity his anger boiled over.
“What the fucks with these guys?” he shouted towards the heavens.
Luke continued to scream to the sky. “Where’s the, . . .” befuddled, exasperated, he couldn’t complete the thought . . . After a couple of beats he was able to let loose more frustration, “Do you need any help Luke? . . . Where’s the appreciation? . . . Fuck this shit! . . . I don’t need it!”
Luke never vowed, during his fit, that he wasn’t going to take it anymore. Because he was . . . He was taking it . . . and taking it like he had never taken it before.
A Spanish kid, a WWF employee leaning against the wall, on break, having a Camel filter checked Luke out. The kid saw and heard everything that went down between the men. All he could do was just gave Luke a smile.
Even though the kid on smoke break he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. All he could do for Luke was smile, with one of those, “It’s O.K. amigo. It’s us against them. No problema.” The kid held out his pack of Camels, offering Luke a smoke. Luke somehow, from somewhere, found and returned the sincere smile, appreciating the sentiment and he said to himself, “fuck it!”
He muttered a little more to and lit up the offered fag. Javier joined him out back of the restaurant a few moments later.
“Don’t let those assholes get you down Luke I’ve seen guys like those when I lived in the States. They ain’t shit.”
Both men went back to work. It was an escape. There was no let up for the entire day and into the night. By the end of the work day, R415 did a whopping 5.000.000 pesetas, an amount equivalent to $50,000 in American dollars. There was a feeling of accomplishment. They all pulled through. Luke and his crew had to mix-up five more batches of waffle-mix before it was over. The crew, for all intents and purposes did a fine job. R415 closed its doors at 11 p.m.
Actually, WWF’s Expo contract called for R415 to close by 10:00 p.m. since it was in an area designated as daytime area. Harry called around 8:00 and told Christie to stay open til somebody came around from Expo and ordered them to close. It happened.
After working for so many hours and being completely pooped out a mammoth clean-up job had to be done. In all his years involved with restaurants, Luke had never seen so many dirty trays and pots laying around sinks in his life. Soiled trays and pans were stacked almost to the ceiling. Outside; the umbrella-tables and terrace were littered with cups and plates including ripped open mustard and mayonnaise foils. If they had packets of ketchup, it would have been more of a mess. A clean-up team had picked up after the customers all-day long, filling those yellow plastic bags with gobs of trash then having them squeezed and crushed into a trash compactor.
Christie wasn’t much help to anybody. She spent the entire day being no more than a social butterfly while on the phone or drinking coffee. She “sweetied” and “honeyed” everybody. She further drained the personnel resources of the restaurant during its busiest time. She sent employees on needless errands for a copy of USA Today and to buy other foods from surrounding stands. She wouldn’t go anywhere without taking some company along. She smoked her cigarettes, ate pizza and gobbled pastries. She was practically good for nothing. She must be one hell of a blow job or something. Why else? Not that Gary was some prince . . . but with his clout. Without Kenny she would have been lost.
Luke’s ego recovered from the earlier incident. He supervised along with Inez and Frank. Luke asked them to oversee the help while he emptied the registers and handed the money over to Kenny. The clean-up lasted at least two hours. Javier told Luke that some of the employees were grumbling, saying that they didn’t want to stay and clean. It was only day one. Was it going to be as hectic everyday? WWF might find it necessary to hire some additional employees, strictly for cleaning purposes. To work hard all day, almost non-stop, and then spend two hours cleaning, why that was both ludicrous and un-fair in Luke’s eyes. It was in anybody’s eyes.
When they were finally finished and everything was put away and all set up for the next day; Javier, a young man filled with Spanish vim and vigor, invited Luke to go out. Raul and Juaquin insisted also. They were going over to some of the bars on Toreno Boulevard, where many of the fair’s local employees began to make it a habit to stop by, once they were off work. Luke said he was beat and besides, he was catching a ride back to the apartment with old-Bill at midnight. Javier said he owned a car. He lived just a few kilometers past the company apartment. He guaranteed Luke a lift back.
The four men’s pace, a rejuvenated one. Free of responsibility they became part of the throng still partaking in the opening dya’s festivities. The celebration; still going strong. Non-stop fireworks lit up the sky and thundered above hundreds of thousands of Spaniards partying through the night. Seville had never seen such a night. Outside the confines of R415 Luke could appreciate the spectacle. The ground rumbled from the intensity of fireworks. By then the pyro-techs weren’t going to be just a flash in the night. They forecast that ‘you ain’t heard nothing yet’ . . .
Numbed by it all, the four men joined a procession, joining others who had there bellies full or just trudging home, crossing the bridges of Guadalquivir. The quartet walked towards the same line-up-of-bars that Miguel and his men patronized the night they tested Expo’s security.
Outside of the three bars, hundreds of mostly Spanish, Expo, employees milled around on the wide sidewalks All the tables and chairs were taken up by the fast growing crowd. People sat on the curb and when the curb space was used up they sat down and crossed leg themselves right on the pavement. Most had been on their feet for the last twelve to fourteen hours. A myriad of dialects were being spoken. Many of the local ordinances were being broken. Motor cycles and autos were parked right up on the pavement. People were drinking openly, out of plastic cups filled with liquor or beer, which was legal, but in many cases they were rolling fat joints made from hashish mixed into cigarette tobacco in the wide open.
On their way over, Luke told Javier that since being there he hadn’t gone out on the town. The daily drudgery; the walking, the hassle at the gate, the bus, the crammed apartment all contributed to his ambivalence. Javier told Luke that he was born in Seville but when he was ten he moved with his family to Miami and then again off to Brisbane. He said that he went to high school in America and played American football. His parents were bilingual. His mother was a school teacher while his father was in international sales that’s why they lived in both America and Australia. Javier was not only proud that he spoke perfect English; he proudly told Luke that he could converse in American slang.
“Lots of Europeans can speak English, but you’ll find that not too many understand slang man.”
The men went inside Rebelde’s. Rebelde ; a Spanish word meaning: rebel. Rebeldes, the cword was printed over the bar’s threshold. Javier expressed that Luke might enjoy the place. They dealt with the crowd to trying to get the bartender’s attention. The place was packed. Javier ordered four cervesas. Raul and Javier sought out some amigas and left Luke and Javier.
“So what’s with this joint?”
“First of all, it’s owned by an American.”
The bar was owned by Danny McNamara; a retired U.S. Navy man, who according to Javier was a rebel himself. He operated the noisy bar with his wife Maria. They had owned the establishment since Danny’s retirement, seven years before. Maria; Danny’s wife, was born and raised in Seville. Her family was there. Danny had spent twelve of his twenty-two years while in the service in Spain and most of that time at Rota; a huge U.S. base on the Atlantic near Cadiz.
Danny McNamara was a irreverent big-mouthed, live-wire, commonly called by both his English-speaking and Spanish friends as Danny Boy. When drunk, Danny serenaded his clientele with a loud rendition of the Irish classic; “Danny Boy.”
Inside of Rebeldes hung just one picture of Jesus, unlike the morbid bar next door. The savior in Danny’s joint had equal billing with other notables. Danny was quick to tell folks how Jesus was a rebel too. Plastered all over Rebeldes were additional photos or posters, other people perceived universally as rebels. A black and white of Robert E. Lee atop a white stallion centerpiece the back of the bar. Che Rivera with clenched fist guarded the entrance to the men’s rest room. Fidel Castro in his cap and fatigues and Marlon Brando in his famous motor-cycle photo all hung out in a dark corner. Others pictures paid homage to James Dean and one even America’s TV original rebel, actor Nick Adams, whose likeness watched over the interior of the bar. He wouldn’t have gotten away with that sort of decor ten years before during the Franco era.
As usual, Danny was holding court under the duo likenesses of the Lennon’s; Valdimir and John. Javier had made Danny’s acquaintance another night and wanted to introduce Luke. Javier led Luke towards the man. Danny gave Luke a hardy hand shake and a sincere smile. Danny gave all Americans hardy hand shakes and sincere smiles. He missed his countrymen and longed for their company. For Luke meeting Danny was a pleasure, easy to meet a man who said what was on his mind and Danny wasted no time getting acquainted.
He expressed to others that he wasn’t so thrilled about all the upheaval brought to Seville by the world’s fair. Danny couldn’t help but welcome the shot in the arm it meant for business. The added incentive, there would be a chance for him to talk with the some Americans. He worried that prices would rise and his U.S. bucks might not go as far.
As a youth Danny played junior hockey in Massachusetts. He mentioned that to Luke ‘cause he mistook Luke for a hockey player. He still followed hockey. He said. “Newspapers from the States provide me with news from the hockey world. That “U.S.A. Yesterday” comes a day late you know . . . “
Danny was on good behavior with the fair just opening and all. He had promised his wife that he’d stay nice. Danny, then around sixty was a tough talking, two-fisted hombre. He was known to say what was on his mind. This didn’t always go over well with the Spanish. He was fast to compare the differences between provincial Spain and the anything goes USA. That comparison was more of a idealistic myth in his own mind. Still he had friendly eyes and possessed much more bark than bite.
Danny in the past had chastised the hell out of the Spanish and constantly cursed his adopted country.
“It’s just that I love my wife so much!” he’d concede as the main reason he remained in Spain. He’d fail to mention that that U.S. Navy retirement check went a bit further in Seville once converted to pesetas. Much, much, further than it might go back in Springfield Mass. or St. Petersburg Fla. Because of the upswing in the economy the peseta had been getting stronger. As stated, he was deeply in love with his Spanish wife and fortunately for him the feeling was mutual. He manifested his rebellious pipe dream,, when Seville was still a sleepy almost forgotten city; a city with a rich and diverse culture, a jewel tucked away in the heart of Andalucia. In Danny’s view the fair was an intrusion. “They’ll never pay for it in our life-time,” he’d squeal. Nevertheless, for the next six months he’d sell loads of beer and liquor and make himself a small fortune.
Nothing was sacred in the eyes of Danny “Boy” McNamara. He poked fun at Spain’s ancient-minded Catholic Church, whose grip on its people he felt was slipping. He’d question the courage of Spanish husbands who wouldn’t get divorced, in fear about becoming a social outcast. He pidgeon-holed the Spanish, perhaps pegging them unfairly; painting a picture of a society whose people didn’t have the ability or fortitude to be spontaneous or diversified. In his view they were cattle as they had ways been. “Trapped,” he said, “the Spanish first were trapped between the Pyrenees and the sea and enslaved, now they are no more than fish in a barrel, view by the industrials as marks; customers, buyers of goods from the 50 or so families who control the entire country and its economy.”
According to Danny the Spanish were used to being pushed around. If they weren’t nudged by the social bureaucrats, then they’d be bullied by the machine gun toting throw backs from the Franco era. “They like it that way!” he’d blurt “that’s what they’re used to.” With prejudice he constantly compared Spain’s failures and inadequacies perhaps unfairly to those of the triumphs of North Americans, and as far as Danny was concerned they didn’t measure up.
Maria his pretty wife with petite features could only wave her arm towards him and razz. When caught between Danny’s raving and her countrymen while he was in the middle of one of his spiels she’d habla, “Americano loco, pero, mi amante solo.” She loved him immensely despite his big-mouth and strong opinions. Despite the fact that he belittled her countrymen, she was sure down deep he was a softy, and more a fool, who in all actuality was harmless. He had been a good father and provider. Nevertheless, Danny was always a complainer and a trouble maker even while in the Navy. After all, he had named the place; Rebeldes. . . . that was part of the lure. She was helpless and adored everything about the bumpkin since the first moment she laid her eyes on him down in Gibraltar. Long ago she had resolved herself regardless of the fact that her family saw him as a big-mouth jerk, he was kind, loving and sexy too.
The target of Danny’s ridicule that particular evening which he shared with Luke had nothing to do with Expo. The entire city of Seville was about to enter a very special time of year with higher esteem than Expo. In the midst of AMante Sante. Besides the thousands of people descending upon Seville for the opening of Expo many more were on their way for a more traditional celebration — next week’s opening of Holy Week.
Each night during Holy Week or Amante Sante if you will, various religious men’s organizations and their members descended upon Seville from all over the country for the week long vigil. Their processions each night zig-zag through the narrow calles of the old city. Thousands of men dressed in what looks like Friars robes, in various colors and tones reenforced their reverence and allegiance to the cross.
During Amante Sante Seville’s a 24-hour a day city. All night processions pass under strung up lights and snake through Seville’s narrow streets. Thousands line the sidewalks. Sevillianos repent, party and pray.
“They think they’re so fucken macho. And so fucken holy! What’s so macho and holy about you and 25 of your drunken buddies carrying some plaster statue and faking that you’re saying the rosary? Sacalaman! I’ll tell you they must think it’s Halloween.”
Danny mouthed off to who ever would listen and while on his way to a load. Of course, most inside the bar had no idea what Danny was talking about, because most there didn’t understand English. His audience that night consisted primarily of two Irish girls, who happened to be employed by WWF sitting beside Luke and Javier. The girls were probably ready to listen to anything. They were broke and since Danny was treating.
The girls, products of a strict Catholic upbringing back in Ireland weren’t so sure about joining in and throwing stones at the church. They’d just listen and let Danny do all the rebel rousing as he poured them another drink.
Javier and Luke listened and laughed at Danny’s antics. The guy was a card. Javier told Luke how Amante Sante was thought of and revered in Seville and throughout Spain. “Perhaps it’s the highlight of the year around here, it is at least in a religious sense. We’re very religious here. But wait until you see Seville’s, upcoming, Spring-carnival; feria. That’s the only event that might equal it. Both celebrations last a week. You’ll soon find out Luke that Andalucians party all the time. Expo will be no big deal.
“In America the church has; ‘The Holy Name Society.’ Organizations such as those are much more popular here in Spain. The church is still very powerful here, despite that nobody around here attends mass anymore, only old people and kids. During Amante Sante Spain’s, Holy Name Societies descend upon Seville. Yeah, like anywhere else it’s a chance for the men to get away from the women, away from the wife and kids for a week. And there’s plenty of drinking and all . . . and probably some fooling around. It doesn’t stop the hookers from coming out. But us Spanish take those processions and ceremonies very seriously. Don’t forget the priests are all along, so the fellows can’t get oo out of hand. They have to keep up appearances.
“And it’s tougher than Danny lets on. The religious statue are extremely heavy and it really does take at least 25 fit men to lift them and sustain a pace for miles under such weight. Many of the ‘Pentecosts;’ that’s what they’re called. Many of them walk in their bare feet, perhaps it’s macho but many consider it as suffering for God’s sake and they do so. It can be cold and damp and damn tough on the feet around this time of year, especially at four in the morning. There are usually about 75 men to a group; two-thirds from that number stay in reserve. They intermittently relieve those being worn out by the wight of the statue. At the same time, he amount of brandy and coniac being passed around might be debatable.”
Much was going to be happening in Seville in the Spring of 1992. Years later hopefully the time would be viewed upon as a golden era. One week after the grand opening of the greatest World Exposition of all-time the nation’s premier religious gathering would take place within the confines of the old city. The charming city would get a week to catch its breath and feria would begin. Feria; Seville’s annual carnival, a right of Spring, a tradition that found Andalucians partying 24-hours a day.
The two annual traditions, feria and Amante Sante wouldn’t back off. As they had for so many years past the traditions would stand on their own, splintered tent poles and the sore feet of their statue bearers. In 1992 they would attract even larger crowds. During the month of April Seville’s metropolitan area’s population of 750,000 would swell to way over a million and stay that way daily for almost the entire month. They would come by air, plane and train . . . motorcycle, Fiat and hitch-hike . . . push-cart and horse they just kept coming.
Luke could have never dreamed, nor could have Danny Boy McNamara or Heather or Carmen or Harry Gross fathomed that all these festivities could be overshadowed by an awful event that if not stopped it might shatter their world forever.
Louis Virgo and Miguel Garcia could dreamed about such a crime and were looking forward to manifest such a devastating dream.
Luke and Javier talked some. They both admired Kenny’s work ethic and agreed that Christie was a piece of shit. Luke had twenty years on Javier. Javier took an immediate liking to Luke. So far in Javier’s eyes the man from America had a wealth of experience, good judgment and he was kind. Javier friendly aggressiveness Luke sized up that one day Javier would be on top of something. Javier was sharp and quick to smile. For the time, Javier was Luke’s link to everybody. The language barrier was a breeze as long as Javier was around.
Javier left Luke’s side to use the water closet. Luke stood near Raul and Juaquin only to substantiate that he was with people. He chuckled admiring the Confederate flag and and old Oakland Raiders football helmet; two more pieces of Rebeldes. decor. He strolled over near the entrance and looked outside through the open window. The wide-sidewalk was still jam packed with fair workers.
The Australians were the most noticeable. They appeared much bigger than everybody else — six-foot, two-hundred pounders. Their beach blonde hair was a stand out. They were noisy too; noisier than the other pockets. Their commonwealth accents drowned out the other languages. They were really saying Australian cliches like, “tie me kangaroo down mate.” A drunken bunch had one of their own mates wrapped around a street lamp.
While drunkenly leaning up against the pole some of his mates decided to duck tape the unsuspecting fellow to the pole. The chargers surprised the fellow. Two held him in place while two others taped him to the aluminum pole. The man was helpless, his arms were taped to his sides. It was if he were inside some 3M made cocoon. He could only drunkenly moan for some sort of compassion and hope that somebody sympathetic would spend the twenty minutes it would to to unravel him. People passing by somewhat astonished viewed the taped man with curiosity and with some amusement making no effort to free him. He was going to remain there for some time unless a Good Samaritan came along.
There was another group that caught Luke’s attention. They were off to the side and were men of a darker complexion, muddling on the outskirts of the crowd on the sidewalk. They spoke another language. Not Spanish, not French, but something different. Luke found out through Javier that they were Moroccans and they were the guys who sold the hashish or whatever people needed for the head. To Luke they looked forboding and he would avoid eye contact. He had seen guys like them before.