Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo – Part 12, Meeting Mr. Miller

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

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I do not know to this day if Keith had been involved with those Cuban refugees “dumped off” on Sanibel Island. Chances are he had not, because I imagined him too clever to implicate himself to a stranger. At least that was my impression of him then. Keith had a way of making me think, dissect, reverse then laugh at my own opinions and convictions. He just might have been sly enough to be making an indirect confession and I too thick headed to notice. But even when he mentioned something as morbid as chopping up unborn fetuses to use their stem cells to fabricate better body parts for himself I laughed at his audacity. Keith’s take on the world was playing the Devil’s Advocate while mine seemed more like a naive, optimistic belief in fairies and guardian angels. So our caricature blended well.

Now Naty tells me about meeting Keith in Miami, how he had connections in Cuba because of his import/export enterprise and her not knowing he had been seeing Rosetta. Keith had been romancing both sisters at the same time, like the proverbial sailor that had a girl in every port, except this arrangement had not come by happenstance. The two daughters of a squatter that occupied the old field hand’s house on the plantation that was known as the La Casa Vinales de Eden were only victims. Keith’s business association with Lord Cristobal made him aware of the thorn Juan Revuelta had become. First he had met beautiful Rosetta and promised her a way out of Cuba. Then learning of an older sister in America, Keith pursued Naty with the promise of helping her find a way to free her family. By becoming involved with both women, Keith churned the desperation in the Revuelta household with false hope, never intending to make good on his promises.

With his travels throughout the Caribbean Keith’s absence was easily explained, condoned and accepted. When I met Keith I was under the impression that he and Laura were in an exclusive relationship: but then again, how much was covered over by his chosen profession? Being out of the country for presumably days if not weeks at a time could afford Keith several different lives. Who Keith was depended on where he was. I was learning of a more devious, sinister man than I could have ever imagined possible with Keith. This was not the guy that originally invited me to an extended week-end in Key West. Watching Naty’s heart break with her tearful recollections convinced me I did not really know the extent of Keith’s evil tendencies. But something inside of me ached for Naty. As I consoled her the best I could, Keith’s challenging question from our conversation in the coffee shop came floating back to me.

“How do you know he’s cruel?”

“By this,” I told myself, “the calculated and maliciously instigated heartbreak of people like Juan Revuelta and his family.”

I made a solemn pledge in my mind that all bets were off, my friendship with Keith was a bust. Though my motives for coming to Cuba had been pure, I felt betrayed and manipulated. What more was Keith involved with? Was the taking of Americans to Cuba and holding them for ransom his operation? What about Rachel’s kidnapping, what motive was there behind that? And then the most compelling question of all, how did this fit in with me and the shades of Hemingway?

.
My head hurt with the carousel of points and counter-points that raced along unabated while I sat in the open veranda waiting for Lord Cristobal to receive me. At the gate of the La Casa Vinales de Eden where I had been dropped off by Naty I was met by two armed guards. They eyed me very suspiciously when I told them I had an appointment to see a “Mr. Miller.” But after some persistence on my part and a two-way radio conversation one of them buzzed me up to the villa in a Jeep. After a lengthy conversation with Naty and Miriam we agreed that I would go it alone. And I decided to heed Papa Hemingway’s warning by not mentioning I knew Keith. The only play I had was to let Lord Cristobal know I was privy to some information about him that perhaps few others had known, his early relationship with Ernest Hemingway. I knew it was a gamble but my hope was that by using his “Christian” name it might arouse some curiosity in him to see who I was. More importantly, my bold approach could spawn a desire to find out what I wanted. And it seemed to be working. I was even brought a cool drink to sip on while I took in the garden surroundings. I wasn’t kept waiting for long.

A spry, dark skinned man came down the outside corridor towards me. I imagined him to be in his 70’s, but there was a briskness in his step, lightly click clacking on the terra cotta flooring. He wore a tropical shirt with palm trees and macaws in the print along with flowing, silken trousers and open toed sandals. Another younger man followed behind along with the guard that had originally accompanied me, still ominously carrying his weapon. Lord Cristobal was not smiling, but his eyes were friendly. I swallowed hard and tried to appear relaxed as I rose to meet the babalaos that influenced so much of the thinking of the Cuban dictatorship. I offered my hand and to my relief, he graciously shook it.

“Lord Cristobal?”

“Yes.” He gave a slight nod of piety.

“My name is Christian Fiore. Thank you for granting me an audience un-announced and on such a short notice. I apologize for the intrusion and promise to be brief.”

I waited for Lord Cristobal to gesture for me to return to my seat before I sat back down. He sat across from me with a small table separating us while the other two men remained standing. The armed guard continued to eye me menacingly but I fought to remain calm, though I could feel perspiration trickling down the inside of my arm.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Fiore?” His use of English was very precise, with a lilting similar to a Far Eastern accent.

“My time in Cuba has been very short, sir, but with everyone I meet the consensus has always been the same. No one knows the Cuban people nor loves the Republic of Cuba better than Lord Cristobal.”

Lord Cristobal smiled at me, his eyes narrowing slightly. I had rehearsed my introduction several times and had hoped a little flattery might help get me on the good side of my host, but I was grappling with the words while attempting to speak them out loud. Lord Cristobal’s manner was soothing.

‘What would you request of me, Mr. Fiore?”

I shifted a bit uneasily in my seat and nervously sipped at my drink for a moment, finally placing the glass down on the table.

“I have been visited by a spirit or spirits that claim to have had a relationship with you in the past. These shades will not rest and resist any attempt I have made of ridding myself of them. That is why I have come to you, the spirits have demanded I do so.”

“To which spirits do you refer?” My predicament seemed common to him.

“The shades of Ernest Hemingway. To prove that I was sent by them I was told to address you by the name, ‘Miller.’ What is it’s significance?”

The man that had accompanied Lord Cristobal and the guard spoke something in Spanish but Lord Cristobal raised his hand to silence him. After a slight pause he replied to the man in Spanish and both men left us alone on the veranda.

“It has been a while since I have been addressed by that name, Mr. Fiore. Truly, any other reason for your being here might have raised the ire of my scribe and the displeasure of my guards.”

“I am aware of that, sir. It is with great humility that I approach you with this matter, but it is their bidding that I do so and not of my own choosing. They have been quite persistent.”

“Then perhaps, before we continue… these spirits have revealed other things to you? My having had a relationship with Ernest Hemingway while not common knowledge is still not a kept secret. Maybe you could indulge me a little further, mention another name associated with Mr. Hemingway and myself, in order to substantiate your claim?”

“You refer to your father, Tenete’, I presume?”

“A name given him by Hemingway.”

Lord Cristobal nodded slightly and raised a hand to his face, covering his chin and mouth as if in deep, reflective thought. I nervously watched him, hoping the response to my cue had been received as a sign of legitimacy to my claim of having been sent by Hemingway’s ghost.

“I was removed from my homeland when I was very young and brought here as a form of retribution, Mr. Fiore. Do you know why?”

“Your father was killed while on safari. Your relatives asked that you be taken to Cuba by Hemingway so that you could be raised and educated by him.”

Lord Cristobal rose from his seat and slowly paced about the area in front of me, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Truly, you have been well informed Mr. Fiore. There is no doubt in my mind that you have been in touch with the spirit realm. Do you also know the extent of my influence over it?”

I swallowed hard. I had the feeling this was make or break time,

“As babalaos through the use of the kyklos tod mene’ ?”

Lord Cristobal stopped, turned and coolly looked at me.

“Who else has discussed this with you, Mr. Fiore?”

“No one else, sir. I find my encounters so unbelievable that I dare not utter the experience to anyone else for fear they may question my very sanity.”

There was no mistaking my sincerity here, I was concerned how my experience would be accepted, even by the babalaos of the Santerian faith. At that declaration Lord Cristobal walked back to his seat and with an apparent new interest sat down across from me again. Another young man arrived with a tray and offered him a tall drink along with a cigarillo which he promptly picked up and held out to have lit. He took a long drag, savoring the experience, then crossed his legs as he exhaled. Lord Cristobal indicated that the server put the drink on the table between us then dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He then diverted his attention to me.

“Tell me then,” Lord Cristobal muses, “how did this extraordinary relationship begin?”

I took a breath. It seemed all I had been doing as of late was explain how my situation had all began while carefully leaving out the parts that may have incriminated me as some sort of raving lunatic. This was the first time I would be including the unbelievable parts to someone who not only would believe it, but also had directly influenced portions of it. Still I realized that Lord Cristobal was not my ally and I had to tread lightly. Just as I was about to begin another voice spoke up from behind me, one that I recognized and instantly dreaded.

‘Yeah boy, this is all some fascinating stuff! I think I’d like to hear it from the beginning, too.”

I turned around to look into the face of Key West Detective Jake Barnes.

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One Response to “Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo – Part 12, Meeting Mr. Miller”

  1. Carter Eitel Says:

    thanks for the great post

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