Bone Island Abattoir / Part 2: Which Sides You Are On

 Author’s note:  This is the fourth book of The Shades of Hemingway series.  While reading this installment, Bone Island Abattoir is complete in itself, it is recommended that the reader search out the begining of this incredible story…

~

I realize the sun is going down as I am sitting in the dimly lit room still fastened to the chair Jake Barnes has tied me to, but I feel different… aware that I am not alone in the dark. The Key West detective is laid out on the bed smoking a cigarette, the glow of it’s end brightening to illuminate Jake’s face with every drag he takes.

“Have a nice nap?” Jake asks with a little sarcasm in his tone.

“Jake, why am I tied up like this?”

“Because the bastards took my ‘cuffs when they lifted my piece.”

“I mean, why are you holding me? What tangible proof have you got that says I killed anybody, let alone a policeman?”

“You mean aside from resisting arrest?”

“Resisting ? How could’ve I resisted when you never declared the intention of placing me under arrest?”

“I was getting around to it… besides, I like it where I can keep an eye on you at a distance.” Jake’s free hand cups his balls and gives them a slight adjustment, then his arm slides back around to form a headrest.

“Jake, if Brett’s been here then Lord Cristobal must know where she is. Maybe we can help each other find her and then all of us can get the hell out of here.”

“You’re a smooth talker, kid. So go ahead’n talk. Give me one good reason why I should listen to ya.”

“Because I’m innocent! What would be my motive to kill anyone, let alone a cop? I had never laid eyes on Key West prior my first visit there seven weeks ago and I have only just met Brett one day before running into you.”

“Mr. Fiore, wouldn’tcha say it is just a tad bit ironic that twice within one week you turn up as my prime suspect? That twice within one week I’m supposed to meet the guy that killed Patrolman Jordan and then you show up? That twice within one week I’m supposed to find Brett and I run into you instead? “ Jake stubs his cigarette out on the ashtray perched on his stomach then swirls his legs around to sit up while placing it on the end table. “Just a little too coincidental, don’tcha think, Bub? Life is a crappy meal and you’re caught between the bun.”

“This is absurd! I can’t believe you’d be so goddam dumb!”

Jake Barnes shifts his weight to the edge of the bed, his form leaning forward menacingly.

“Easy, kid. We’re still in Cuba, remember? I don’t have to play nice.”

“Yes… you’re right and I’m sorry. The situation has gotten me all discombobulated… caught in this room and being tied up like this. Forget the “dumb” remark I made, Jake. But can’t you at least tell me how is it you are here?”

In the shadows I can see Jake reach over and turn on the table lamp next to the bed. I squint a little, remembering those interrogations performed in all those Sam Spade type black and white movies that made the film noir so recognizable. Jake smiles at my obvious discomfort.

“Thought you had it all figured out, Mr. Fiore.” The Key West detective almost sounded like Peter Lorre.

“Right now I’m not sure of a damn thing except that I’m hungry and I gotta pee. Any chance we could get rid of these ropes if I promise to behave?”

“Where do you think you are, the Ritz? Ain’t no bathroom here… unless you want to hang it out the window.” Jake’s head motions towards the opposite wall.

“Out the window or on the floor… I’d just as soon not wet my pants, if it’s all the same to you.”

Jake stands up and towers over me, almost making me do what I just said I did not want to do.

“Okay, kid… I’m gonna untie ya so you can take your piss out the window, but if ya try anything funny… and I mean anything. If you even shake it more than twice, I’ll have to lay some wood on ya.” Jake raised his big fist and gently placed it under my chin like an upper cut. I could feel a shiver in me timbers.

“Honest to God, Jake. I just wanna take a leak.”

The big man moves behind me and begins untying the rope. As he is working a thought comes to my mind.

“Jake, why did they want your gun? I mean, you’re a cop, right?”

Detective Barnes grunted in disgust as my bonds began to loosen.

“Their friggin’ security, I guess. Patted me down when I arrived.”

I stood up as the ropes were removed. The pressure on my bladder lessened.

“But didn’t you come with Sgt. Garcia?”

“Nope, they met me at the airport and I was brought here by a couple of his flunkies.”

“And then he was supposed to come here and help you find Brett?”

Jake stops and looks at me, the way he had done before back in Brett’s apartment when he thought I was asking too many questions. The peering up over the spectacles once over.

“Look, Mr. Fiore… God help me, I like ya… I really do. If you’re tellin’ the truth… when this thing is over we’ll have a drink down at the Green Parrot on me. Screw it, we’ll get shit faced. We’ll drink a toast to Brett ‘n’ her twin brother for bringin’ two of her former lovers together to charge to the rescue and solve this thing. But in the mean time… do me a favor? Leave the questionin’ to me.”

“Brett’s twin brother?”

“Well now, we don’t know everything, do we? Yep. Bobby was her twin.”

“But you called him her kid brother!”

“A little joke between family members, kid. Brett was born first… three minutes later her fraternal twin brother, Robert, came squirtin’ out.”

“I thought he was a rookie… and yet, she’s a detective? Why the disparity?”

“Brett got into law enforcement right outta college. Robert dropped out and joined the Marines then became an MP. Got out of the service and bummed around for awhile… bicycled across the country. Brett got him to come down to the Keys and the rest, they say… is history.”

“Jake, how did you know Brett was supposed to be in Cuba? What made you come to the Villa Vinales de Eden?”

Jake scratches his head while shaking it side to side, then looks amused.

“Okay… for a bright guy you’re not so smart. We have informants, kid. This one guy we know works in and out of Cuba as an import/exporter. Through out this investigation he has let us in on this ring of smugglers. When Brett turned up missing and you ran off…” He gives me that look again, like I’ve been sat before my grade school principal and caught in a lie.

“Your informant indicated I had something to do with Brett’s disappearance and her brother’s death?” I ask as I move towards the window.

“Naw…this Lord Cristobal character is a business affiliate of our informant. He was supposed to be able to locate her and have her here when I arrived.”

“What about the guy who brought her here?”

“I thought it was you.”

“Jake, I think I know the man you’re looking for. He’s the same guy that got me involved in all this in the first place. He works with this Lord Cristobal character.”

“Yeah? And how’d you get privy to that information?” Jake Barnes raises up one arm and gestures towards the opposite wall, allowing me to pass by him.

I stood before the double window. It was one of those old twin vertical crank out style windows that had the interior screens. I reached up to remove the screen that had a palm tree outline inserted within it’s frame then began twisting the lever that forced one side out. Jake was close at my side. I went for my zipper… then paused.

“I don’t know if I can do this with you watching.”

“Well, sweetheart… there’s no way you’ll be doin’ it without me watchin’ so you’ve got a problem.”

We are up in a second story bedroom looking out of one wing of the Villa Vinales de Eden that does not have an exterior wall guarding the property, only a drainage ditch less than fifty feet away with the tropical forest beyond. I am at least 12 feet off the ground, 15 if you count the window sill. Just as I am about to over come my shyness and begin pulling out Teddy Roosevelt, there is a commotion outside in the courtyard of the villa.

“What’s happening?” I ask, forgetting the task at hand.

“Sonofabitch… pullin’ that screen off must’ve triggered an alarm.”

We can hear the sound of footsteps running and shouting voices approaching the bedroom door. I look at the window frame and sure enough, there is a magnetic switch that must have opened when I removed the screen.

“Get back away from there before…”

But it is too late. Two armed guards burst through the bedroom door only to catch me standing facing the window with Teddy Roosevelt exposed. Jake put his hands up and declares “Don’t shoot! We’re not goin’ anywhere!” But I go ahead and pee like it may be my last act on earth. Within moments more guards appear outside, looking up and pointing their rifles while my urine trail rainbows out into the lawn. I raise my free hand up over my head and wave it slightly.

“Me go numero uno, pour favor…?”

The one called Anselmo that had accompanied Lord Cristobal when I had met him earlier entered after the two guards. I struggled to zip up one handed, keeping my other hand waving free and my head lowered as I slowly turned around. After I had awkwardly finished I let my other hand go up.

“What is the meaning of this?” asked Anselmo.

“Hey, you gotta go… you gotta go. Your boss said to sit tight ‘til we was sent for and there ain’t no john in this room. My buddy had to take a leak so he hung it out the window.” Jake shrugged matter-of-fact allowing his hands to drop down. I left mine raised but relaxed a little. After the initial commotion caused by the busting in of the guards Jake seemed to get his composure back. The Key West detective raised his clenched fists to his hips. “And we don’t appreciate havin’ guns pointin’ at us while we do it!”

Anselmo said something in Spanish to the guards and they lowered their weapons slightly. He motioned with his head towards the door.

“Come downstairs.”

He turned and spoke to one of the guards as we left the window to follow him. The guard crowded past us towards where we had stood, waving off the others below while cranking the window closed and returning the screen to it’s place. The other guard waited until we went out before coming up behind us. The narrow balcony led to a stairway but Jake Barnes stopped before we began our descent.

“You go ahead, kid. I’ll meet ya downstairs.” Jake had found a bathroom at the head of the stairs.

“What’s up?” I asked, taking the first step and turning back, our escort was obviously not pleased with the delay and the guard pausing behind us began to look suspicious.

“You go on ahead, I’ll be right down.” He said to Lord Cristobal’s aide. Then turning to me Jake added. “I gotta go shake the dew off my lily, kid. Those amigos almost scared it right out of me.” And with a wink he entered the small water closet and closed door behind him.

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