Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo – Part 5, The Royal Treatment

Author’s note:  This is a continuation of a series, for more information see Shades of Hemingway and Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure

     I followed the bartender around the bar and into a hallway leading to the back of the building.  Another man was seated and smoking a cigar, his chair leaned back and propped against the wall near the exit.  The bartender bent low and uttered a few words, the man peered over his shoulder at me and nods.  He rights his chair and stands up.  The bartender turned to me.

     “This is Enrique.  He will help you find the Lord.”

     Enrique is about 20 years old and slightly built.  The cigar he was holding is round and fat, almost comical looking for one so young.  He smiles and bobs his head once as a greeting.

     “American?”  He asks with a slight sneer.

     “Si.”  I reply.

     Enrique exits the back door and leads me to the small parking lot.  There is a sea foam green two tone, mid-fifties Ford Fairlane 2 door hard top parked just outside with flames painted across it’s hood and front fenders that he points at then strides up to.  Enrique opens the passenger side door for me and pulls the front seat forward so I can stoop into the back; out of sight from prying eyes, I presume.  I feel like I am getting the royal treatment.  Enrique darts around to the driver’s side and jumps in.  He turns to see that I am situated while starting the car.  Then Enrique begins revving the engine several times and turns once again to grin at me, obviously pleased he has an audience.  After a moment he shifts the car into gear and pulls onto the street.

     We are heading south as I look about the vintage car one of my parents could have owned during their courtship.  We are passing monuments and buildings that are hundreds of years old but I am admiring the chrome handle that rolls the window up and down, the safety strap hanging above the door column and the cord that wraps around the worn vinyl seat cover.  My mind swirls with the events of the past 24 hours while Enrique maneuvers through traffic.

     It was about this time yesterday that I was accosted, thrown into the back of a van and drugged only to be left on the A1A just before the causeway between Boca Chica Key and Key West.  Someone didn’t want me to leave the Keys and return to Ft. Myers  Being abandoned there indirectly led me to meeting Rachel again after our brief encounter at the courthouse earlier yesterday afternoon.  I found myself drifting back to the previous night recalling when Rachel picked me up along the road, took me to her apartment and the evening I spent with the woman I was so desperately trying to rescue…

     She has set candles out, the scented kind placed in the little holders that remind me of shot glasses.  Their aroma calms and intoxicates me.  I am trembling with excitement and expectation.  I lay there on the bed watching Rachel elegantly move around her bedroom, a room that is far different from the Spartan arrangement inside the rest of the apartment.  Here everything has it’s place.  There are dainty ornaments, stuffed animals, cosmetics and photographs.  Her bedroom has the air of femininity that is in stark contrast to the no frills manner Rachel displayed upon entering her rather bleak domicile.  She picks an item up and examines it as though seeing it for the first time.  She is beautiful, but nervous.  Rachel eyes me coyly.

     Her earlier confidence has disappeared.  Now Rachel is childlike, casually put on display, giving me a shy smile as I pan her movements with my eyes.  I realize I do not know this woman but I find myself falling for her, wanting her more that the desire I have building up inside my loins.  I want to comfort Rachel, hold her, tell her everything is going to be all right.  I look at the print Rachel has of Kilmt’s ‘The Kiss’ and I know I want to be that man; kissing her passionately, loving and adoring her… making time stand still.

     I do not know what I did that brought me to this point in my life, but as she came to bed I realized I had acquired a reward though not anticipated it, I had found a treasure not sought.  Rachel was a miracle.  All the sins of my past had been atoned for, I had been redeemed.  Her face reflected in the candlelight shone like an angel’s, she is radiant… glowing.  I know I must move slowly but Rachel beckons to me with a beguiling smile as if to say, “Tonight we shall be glorious.”

     “I never really appreciated Led Zeppelin early on, do you like them?” and before I could answer the stereo came on playing the opening notes to one of their well known songs.

     “Why not?”  I replied.

     I knew my answer could have gone either way.  Why didn’t she like them earlier on, or… sure, why not enjoy them now?  I am reaching over to softly brush the hair from her face, her smile is wrought with approval but I remain patient.

     “They didn’t impress me all that much at first.”

     I am stroking her skin now, her shoulder and arm… fingering her ear with light butterfly touches.

     “What changed your mind?”

     She takes a breath; this is foreplay of an intriguing sort, we are measuring each other, readying our bodies for the crescendo only reached during lovemaking.

     “I was in an art gallery, looking at paintings… their music was playing in the background.  I was struck by how it all seemed to fit and blend into each piece on display.”

     “Hmmm…”  I am trying to sound like the modern intellectual but my primeval instincts are giving me away.  “And how do you feel about them now?”

     “Oh, I like them… especially during sex.”

     There are no pretensions, no barriers, and no doubts.  This evening we are on the verge of discovering our own Stairway to Heaven.

     Enrique’s driving has taken us outside of the city and the road has become rough, jostling me around in the back seat.  My attention abruptly returns to the here and now.  I look out the window at rolling fields being attended to by workers gathering strawberries or tomatoes… the back breaking work of reaching low to pick produce by hand in the sub-tropical afternoon sun.  I am aware that I had been daydreaming for quite a while without a word being spoken between Enrique and myself so I try to pleasantly break the silence.

     “How much further?”  I ask, trying not to sound impatient.

     Enrique turns to me as though surprised by my question then again faces the road and says nothing.

     “Enrique?  How much further, pour favor?”  It irritates me when I know people understand English but still they pretend to not understand plain English for leverage or simply to be rude.

     I know very little Spanish, actually none unless you count what happens in the movies that is really incidental to everything else concerning the plot.  The language I gleaned from that could easily fit in a chip stolen by the Frito Bandito.  Enrique smiles and nods saying “Soon, soon” as I am looking around the foreign land I have encroached upon.  We are traveling down a two lane blacktop full of potholes and patches upon patches but soon we reach a point where Enrique turns off onto a dirt side road with tobacco plants straddling both sides.

     I have no reason to fear, I tell myself.  Hem sent me in this direction and he would not have intentionally put me in harm’s way.  But after perhaps an eighth of a mile Enrique begins to slow down and comes to a stop, leaving the car idling.

     This time Enrique turns to me but he is not smiling, he has drawn a pistol and rested it on the back of the seat with his finger stroking the trigger guard.  I looked into the young man’s face and I knew he meant business.  I began thinking I was wrong about Hem allowing me to be placed in harm’s way.  Panic rose up in my throat but through the irony I could only feel myself giving him a nervous smile, which was a mistake.

     “Wait, Enrique… I know this sounds bad but… I have no money!”

     “Do you wish to die?  Shut up and give me your wallet!”

     “Enrique!  I have no wallet!  I have no money!  There was no time for me to get money when I left for Cuba!”

     He reached over to open the passenger side door and then motioned with the barrel of his gun for me to get out.  As I pushed the seat forward in order to comply he drew back the pistol and aimed it at my face.  I managed to crawl out alongside of the road as he opened his own door and stepped on the door frame,  pointing the gun at my head over the roof of the Ford.

     “Give me your money!  I will let you live just give me your money!”

     “I have no money!  If I had some I would give it to you but I don’t.  I want to live, I don’t want to be shot… but I am broke!”

    Enrique steps down from the car and walks around the front, still pointing the gun at me.  He begins jabbering something in Spanish, which I presume are obscenities.  There is not a soul in sight, all I can see up and down the road is tobacco fields.  Enrique approaches and motions for me to turn around, which I do.  I feel his free hand pat my pockets and grab my crotch, but there is not even the jingle of loose change.  Still not satisfied he orders me down on my knees with my hands up on my head.  Enrique goes through the back seat, presuming I must have stashed my cash somewhere but in a moment he pulls back out.

     “Why do you go to meet Lord Cristobal with no money?  He will kill you, American!  You have no money for him?  How will you pay a ransom without money?  Where is the money?”

     “Ransom?  I’m not paying any ransom…”

     But Enrique is furious.  He kicks me in the ribs and yanks my head back by the hair, pushing his pistol into my cheek.

     “Last chance!  Where is the money?”

     “Enrique!  I have no money!  I know nothing of a ransom!  If I had any money I’d give it to you!  I haven’t got a dime!  I swear it, Enrique… I don’t know anything about paying a ransom!”

     Enrique pulls back his gun and I hear the hammer cock into place, the muzzle forced into my ear.

     “Too bad for you!  I will save Lord Cristobal the trouble and kill you myself!”

     There is a slight breeze rustling through the tobacco leaves.  I can see a black bird flying overhead and I smell smoke, like a cook stove or a fireplace is nearby.  I try to twist my head to look up at Enrique but I cannot.  Moments later there is an explosion.  I see Rachel’s face smiling back at me lying on a pillow in the soft candlelight… 

then  feel myself falling into blackness…

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