Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 12, The Get Away

*Author’s note:  This is part 12 of 13 parts, to better understand the contents it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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Ring Lardner, Jr. was standing on the shoreline, beckoning with his arm for me to join him.  I stepped out of the van and walked towards the water, the fading colors of the sunset becoming pastel grey on the horizon.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

“They’ve taken her, Chris.”

“Taken who?”

“Rachel.”

He is looking out over the water, much the way he had done at Fort Zachary Taylor the first day we met.

“Who?  Ring who has taken Rachel?”

“Remember, Chris… kyklos tod mene…

“The cycle of the death moon.”

“The killer is very close to you…”

“Who has taken her, Ring? Who has taken Rachel?”

” …very close.”

……..

Jake Barnes is lightly slapping my face to awaken me.  I struggle to sit up and he pulls back, kneeling beside me.

“I must have fainted…”

“Dropped like a sack of potatoes.”

“I’m sorry, this has been a bit unsettling to me…”

“Yeah, I could see how it might be.  You’re in a tight spot, my friend.”

I sat up and rubbed the back of my neck.  Detective Barnes stands and steps back, then rifles his inside pocket for a pack of cigarettes.  He offers the pack to me, then removes one for himself and fires it up.

“She never liked it when I smoked, even before it became vogue to be a non-smoker.”

“How long ago were you married?”

“17… 18 years.  She was just out of high school.  Didn’t last 18 months.”

“I’m sorry…”  though I really wasn’t.

“Ah, don’t sweat it.  Wasn’t meant to be, that’s all.”  He took a long drag off his cigarette and blew smoke into the air.  “We sure had us a time, though… during those 18 months.”

Jake Barnes’ civility is disconcerting as he walks towards the counter.  I’m wondering if this is a good/bad cop routine.  He laughs through pursed lips, like puffs of steam are escaping from his lungs.  He flicks the ash off on the carpet and turns to face me, still sitting up on the kitchen floor.

“So… what’s your story?  Can you think of any good reason why I shouldn’t haul your ass down to the station right now?”

“On what charge?”

“How ’bout unlawful entry for starters?”

“Unlawful?  Rachel brought me here!”

“So you say, but she is gone and can’t collaborate your story now, can she?”

“I don’t know where she is…”

“Yeah, you told me that already.”

“Look, Detective…”

“Call me, Jake… Mr. Fiore.”

Now I was the one surprised.  “How do you know my name?”

“Told ya, kid… I’m a detective.  Spotted your wallet while you were passed out.  I checked out your story…”

“And…?”

“Jury is still debatin’ that one… let’s just say, for now… you’re cool.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and managed to get myself up off the floor with Jake stepping near and offering to pull me up with one of those catcher’s mitt hands of his.

“So, what happens now?”

“Well, I can take you down to the Ferry if you’re wanting to get back to Ft. Myers.”

“And what about Rachel?”

“Police business, kid… forget about it.  She’ll probably turn up and have forgotten she was supposed to meet me.”

“When she thought she knew who her brother’s killer was?  That’s not something you forget about!”

“No, of course not… what I meant is that she’ll be down at the station waiting for me and swear I had it wrong.”

“Had it wrong?”

“Our meeting place…”

“Where were you supposed to meet?”

Jake looks at me just a bit perplexed  “You wanna job, kid?”

“Job?  What do you mean?”

“Because I thought I was the one that was supposed to ask the questions.”

I found my shoes, walked over to the sofa to sit down and began putting them on.  Jake seemed amused that I was emboldened enough to move about without taking him into consideration any longer.  But my determiation must have been written all over my face because he stood in front of me, hands in his pockets, flashing that badge on his hip.

“I think she might be in trouble, Jake… I have to do something.”

“You’ll do nothing, Mr. Fiore… except go home while you still can.”

I sat back and looked up at him.  “While I still can?”

Jake Barnes shifted his weight, almost like he was ready to take a dance step but then thought better of it.  He had spread his legs apart like he was straddling a horse, I had a clear shot at his crotch.  I have been threatened in the past but I’ve never feared for my freedom before this moment.  Jake’s semi-friendly manner as gone, he stood there sizing me up… not afraid to broadcast the fact that he had me cornered.

“You know, I actually think… yeah, …I’m gonna enjoy this.”

I found myself thinking out loud.  “I’m not going to get arrested today!”

Instinctively I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could.  I lurched from the couch as Jake doubled over and I pushed him to the floor, kicking several times in the area of his private parts and mid-section.  Then I ran out of the apartment without my shoes, my wallet or any identification.  Down the stairs from the second floor and out into the parking area I went not giving a thought to where I was going. 

It was early morning, there still was a mist of dew and swirling ground fog common to South Florida climes.  I stopped in the middle of the drive way, turned to look back at the building I’d left… searching for the door and the man that sought to put me in handcuffs.  For a moment I thought of Keith, my ex-Marine buddy.  He would have led the charge and not thought twice about it.  I imagined him laughing at me now… standing half dressed and wild eyed on some cold, wet asphalt in Key West.

 Just then a car pulled up with the drivers side to me.  The power window went down and the driver put his face out.

“Mr. Fiore!  Hurry!  Get in!”

I looked down at the driver and realized a compromising position in a heart beat.  The driver of the car was the man they called ‘Manolo.’  Suddenly I was facing two obstacles and had nowhere to turn… or run to.  Manolo’s face was urgent, Jake Barnes face would be more so if he caught me.  I hesitated.  Manolo struck his open hand against the side of his car as if to sound an alarm.

“Mr. Fiore, I know here Rachel is!”

I had been looking back at the apartment and scanning the parking lot for Jake Barnes’ possible back up.  Manolo’s words snapped my face back to his.

“Please, Mr. Fiore, we don’t have much time!”

I turned back one last time and spied Detective Barnes coming out the front door of Rachel’s apartment, he had my wallet in his hand and was seaching the parking lot, finally looking in my direction.  He raised my wallet up when he saw me, pointed at it with his other hand and nodded like he knew my goose would be cooked.  I could not leave on the Key West Express without proper identification and Barnes knew it.

“Mr. Fiore!  Rachel needs your help!”

Instinctively I knew I could trust Manolo, I had no choice.  I opened the door behind him and jumped into the back seat.  He sped out of the parking lot, I turned to see if we were being followed but Jake was still standing on the second floor landing, tapping my wallet on the rail.

“Who the Hell are you?”

“Sargent Manuel Garcia, Republic of Cuba’s National Guard.”

“What are you doing here?  What the Hell is going on?” 

The urgency in Sgt. Garcia’s driving subsided after a few more moments, but he continually checked his rearview mirror as he spoke to me.

“I am part of a Federal investigation in cooperation with your government.”

“What kind of an investigation?  And since when did our government get involved with Castro?”

“Since 1962, Mr. Fiore.  Our investigation involves human trafficking between Cuba and the United States.”

“I thought that was all sanctioned by the U.S. government as a ploy to stick it to Castro’s regime!”

Garcia looks at me through the rearview mirror, not reacting favorably to my little jab at his president.  But after a few moments he slightly smiled, as if to have the last laugh but then let his face become solemn.

“You don’t understand, Mr. Fiore… we are not investigating Cubans being brought to the U.S.”

“Well, what other kind of human trafficking would you be investigating?”

He looked at me through the rearview mirror.

“American.”

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