You’ve GOT to be kidding, right?

June 24, 2012

http://now.msn.com/entertainment/0623-joy-division.aspx?_p=2fff4d39-1b7e-462e-99d9-5b17701a59af&_nwpt=1

I read this, I heard this, I laughed at the absurdity of this.

Best of lists will come and go.  This song should have never been a contender.

Meanwhile… check this out:  

http://music.msn.com/music/article.aspx?news=744479&_p=9d4c26ac-e454-462c-844d-ea80a05ee698&_nwpt=1&_shr=0

Explains a lot, don’t you think?

 

Oh, and read the comments.  AMRFP is there.  😉

What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

June 2, 2012

Hello, yeah it’s been a while.  Not much, how ’bout you? 

I’ve been neglectful and that is a downright, dirty shame.  No excuse, really, just left alone to my own devices.  Living life, you know,  workin’ and payin’ the bills.  Advantages of Mutual Respect and Fair Play has suffered, not because I haven’t been writing (because I have) but for the lack of anything meaningful to say to the blogosphere that is profound.

There are many avenues on the WWW that afford writers the opportunity to vent, create and critique as they choose and I have been caught up in several that have helped me produce a rather impressive portfolio, for which I am grateful.  And with that burgeoning sack of words I have decided to branch out into the publishing forums, you know… go LEGIT.   I realize that is setting me up for gross rejection and perilous scrutinizing, but I think I can handle it. 

But it is here on AMRFP that my life really turned and I regret not following through.  My fair BB has been encouraging me along and if not for this site, there would be no collaboration between us and really, the rest of my accomplishments (if any) will pale besides being with her.

Without going into all the gory details, suffice it to say that I will be making a more concentrated effort to earn the readership that I have acquired.  I have had hits on this site from all over the world which a short time ago would have been deemed impossible.  Being a writer today is a thrilling adventure and a humble undertaking.  You rise and fall by mere words alone.

I’ll be back to report on my progress in life, love and the pursuit of being published in bonafide print periodically, so check back in again from time to time.

It’s not over till it’s over…

peace.

http://youtu.be/7Py8D6sdeSk

Thanks for the Snub, Iraqis Officials

December 15, 2011

The war in Iraq has officially ended today and Iraqis officials didn’t even bother to attend and witness the ceremonies. These politicians would not have their positions if not for us, they’d still be suffering from the hands of a dictator. You’d think they’d at least be grateful. But to snub the military that fought and died for their positions to me is inexcusable.

http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/15/9461909-a-new-chapter-us-officially-ends-iraq-war

So today is bittersweet.

The 9 year war cost us more than American lives and money but we learned a valuable lesson.

Next time we attempt to intervene, remember this snub. Remember the negative sentiment. Remember the contempt.

Good bye and good luck.

We won’t be back …

From Astro to Zero, the demise and crawl of X-Factor USA

November 18, 2011

From Astro to Zero, the demise and crawl of X-Factor USA?

This program is a prime example of what is wrong with America today. Kids feel entitled and parents let them have their way, rewarding bad behavior with a “don’t do that again or else” warning that just does not hold water.

Astro has not “sung” a single note on this program, refused to follow along with other contestants when required to do a dance number, recites hip-hop while revamping songs with his own “lyrics” and then pouts onstage and refuses to perform, even “whatever’s” Simon Cowell as he chides his unprofessional attitude. To add insult to injury as we the audience watch this disgusting display of arrogance, 3 out of 4 judges pass him along and send a bonafide contestant who played by the rules, tried different genres and co-operated fully with rehearsals and routines home. Why? It doesn’t require “Astro-physics” to draw a conclusion. Some contestants are immune to being cast off.

Paula Abdul said Wednesday night, “Ah, Astro… I wish you’d suck just once.”  Thursday night he did. Paula chose him anyway.

I feel sorry for Stacy Frances. She was obviously nervous and knew she was not the favorite of the judges going into her last performance. It should have fallen to the people to decide her fate. The judges were apparently jaded.

Too bad. I really like the show. But now the other participants have to be wondering… “Is this a singing competition or a dog and pony show?” Astro’s productions are way over done to build him up, without them, he is just another spoiled little rapper mimicking the other gangsters that youth seem to idolize. Real talent in America  falls by the wayside as corporations are looking for a star they can hype to their own ends, not a 42 year old single mother who pours her heart and soul into every effort and only asks to be judged fairly.

 The game is rigged, the wheel is fixed and yet we continue to play …

Today I’m Gonna Try and Change the World

May 20, 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7yAu1agsUk

”’

I hope you’ll enjoy this song by a great Canadian artist, Johhny Reid.

Peace.

Reaction to the Death of Osama bin Laden

May 9, 2011

Two Cents Worth in the Nickel City
Reaction to the Death of Osama bin Laden

I remember the day, September 11th, 2001 like it was yesterday. I know exactly what I was doing and who I was with. It was a day that will remain forever etched in my memory. I saw images I never thought I’d see on American soil. I heard and felt things that most Americans shared that day. Shock. Disbelief. Pain. Outrage.

This week we got the news. Osama bin Laden is dead. Killed by an elite group of U.S. Navy Seals that is so top secret even most government officials didn’t know they existed until the deed was done. Our president watched the raid go down in real time. Pakistan officials denied knowing bin Laden’s whereabouts and vowed to help us locate him. Now suddenly they claim their sovereignty has been violated even though he was the world’s #1 terrorist and had been camping out in their back yard.

As the news unfolded on the Internet my emotions were mixed. “We finally got the bastard!” and “What happens now?” popped in almost simultaneously. When I went to work on Monday my co-workers were a-buzz with the news, but naturally since they are Canadians it didn’t hit home quite the same way it did for me. There were skeptics, of course. Some thought it was a hoax put up by the government which I quickly downplayed.

“I doubt they would say they killed him if they hadn’t. I’m sure Barack Obama doesn’t want a video popping up on YouTube with bin Linden sticking his thumbs in his ears going, ‘N’yah. N’yah! You missed me!’” Everyone readily agreed with that assessment.

Finally one person spoke up and quieted the room.

“So, seeings how you are an American, how does it make you feel to hear Osama bin Laden’s dead?”

Honestly? I think it was political. I think we could have gotten him anytime we wanted to. They can track a man down for delinquent parking tickets, but they couldn’t find the world’s most wanted terrorist? They have satellites that can zero in on a man sitting on a park bench and read the headlines of the newspaper he is holding, but they could not locate Osama bin Laden? They have surveillance equipment the size of a mosquito that can zip in and out of buildings undetected but they couldn’t find a single conversation that might lead them to the man with a 25 million dollar bounty on his head?

“Anticlimactic,” was my answer and I was sorry I felt that way. But it was true. The feeling that this was a political maneuver made me feel like a radical skeptic or a conspiracy theorist but government actions of late have made me suspicious of most everything they do. Fear has always been a tool the government has used to control the population, from the spread of communism and Mutual Assured Destruction to heightened security risks and terrorism denials for nearly every incident. We live in fear. Maybe that is one of the casualties of 9/11. We just don’t know who to trust anymore.

Now almost a week later I’ve seen images of people rejoicing. Perhaps they have that right. I think every lawbreaker should be made aware that there are consequences for their actions and victims may well feel relief to various degrees. On the flip side I read one commentary from an American that declared the killing of Osama bin Laden was “murder”. An American highly respected in some circles.

While President Obama was declaring “justice has been served” all I could think about is the changes we have witnessed in the past 10 years. Do I feel safer now that Osama bin Laden is gone? No. Is the world better off? Yes.

Did he get away with it…?

Bone Island Abattoir / Part 4, The Incrimination of Keith

February 16, 2011

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 beginning of this incredible story…

~

Jake Barnes is anxious but maintains an appearance of calm. I watch him drum his fingers on the table as a cigarette he has carelessly stubbed smolders itself out in the half shell ashtray. The conversation between Lord Cristobal and myself has taken a turn that he is unprepared for so he fidgets uncomfortably. As a detective, Jake must adapt to the situation so this requires him to observe and keep quiet. This seems difficult for a man accustomed to being in charge. Lord Cristobal implicating himself as being an accessory to the suicide of one of the most prolific American writers of the 20th century is a bit un-nerving but also appears to fascinate the big guy. The voodoo priest’s announcement is as solemn as a schoolboy’s confessional and matter-of-fact as a lifer in prison methodically detailing his crime without fear of reprisal or further incrimination. Lord Cristobal seldom had an audience with which he could embroil by his admission of guilt.

“The kyklos tod mene’ is a tool, part of the arsenal of the babalaos… a means of defense used against sedition from within the faith of the Vadou.” Lord Cristobal is seated once again and reflective, almost melancholy. “A priest can acquire many enemies, even from amidst his own followers.”

“But surely Hemingway was not your enemy, sir. He was not a threat to your faith or your position as babalaos. Yet you took this form of defense and used it aggressively against a man who raised and befriended you, why?”

“Yeah, and while you’re at it, explain why did you authorized it’s use on a cop from Key West?” Jake Barnes was emboldened to chime in but is stumbling on his verbiage. He looks at me and winks as if to say, “Don’t worry kid, ol’ Jake can still count the clues and add ‘em up.”

Lord Cristobal gives Detective Barnes a nod with renewed interest. I had not made the connection between my former friend, Keith, and the voodoo ritual employed by Lord Cristobal but now it made perfect sense. The reason why the shades were so interested in the death of Robert Jordan was because he had been done in by the same method used on Ernest Hemingway, a forced suicide. Lord Cristobal breathes heavily; burdened, I assumed, by his conscience.

“Sometimes a man’s drive for vengeance overrides his ability to think… or feel. My coming to Vadou was not of a pure motive, the power I sought was to inflict pain on my adversary. It was only afterwards, with reflection due to time and maturity, did I realize my error and poor judgement. My anger over my father’s death had choked my heart and turned it to stone. After Papa’s suicide, I realized I lost a great benefactor and friend. Suffering with belated grief, I swore never to use the kyklos tod mene’ in such a manner again.”

I looked at the old man’s fragile, leathery skinned hands and saw a slight tremble. Instinctively I reached out to touch and try to sooth him. Anselmo and guard approached immediately but Lord Cristobal lifted his free hand to stop them, then smiled sadly at me.

“I believe that with all I know about the shades of Hemingway, there is no animosity now in their realm of existence.” In my heart I knew this to be true and offered my sentiment free of any doubt or reservation. Lord Cristobal gratefully nodded his head and softly spoke a low chant I could not understand.

“But what of Keith and Officer Jordan? Where does this Kinkos tomfoolery fit into that?” It was Jake again, impatiently waiting for an answer to the garbled question he had asked moments before. I became confused.

“Jake, I thought Robert Jordan died in the line of duty. What makes you believe Keith and the kyklos tod mene’ were involved?”  I knew somehow the voodoo ritual had been used because of the information Papa had shared with me back in Key West, but I could not make the connection to Keith.  Jake’s mental wheels were grinding, his years on the force had built into him an ability to deduce the clues that were right in front of me… his bullshit detector was firing on all cylinders.

“Keith was somewhat exposed to this guy, wasn’t he?”  Jake points a thumb towards Lord Cristobal.  “He had to have access to the beliefs and practices of the voodoo religion. Ain’t that right?” His question was directed to our host who nodded grimly. “Jordan was killed in the line of duty, but not in typical fashion. He shot himself trying to protect someone else.”

“Then it was an accident?” I had overlooked Keith’s loose affliation with the Vadou faith.

“That’s the way it was logged at the time for simplicity, the details were just too freaky. The department thought it best to make it an open and shut case… cut’n’dry… a closed book. But I’ve always had my suspicions otherwise.”

“You mean like a cover up?”

“I mean like a simmerin’ stew with the lid clamped down. Fuhgettabout it, kid… it’s all in the past.”

“But he was Brett’s brother.”

Anselmo approached and leaned low to Lord Cristobal’s ear with a whisper, who nodded then again pulled away from the table to stand.

“I regret I have to end our discussion, gentlemen. I trust you can find your way to your room?”

The guard stepped up as our apparent escort. Jake looked across the table to me and shrugged. I rose and Jake followed, I reached out to shake the hand of the voodoo priest and he weakly accepted my gesture, as if the topic of our conversation had suddenly sapped his strength. Lord Cristobal then shook hands with Jake Barnes.

“I appreciate your takin’ us in, sir.” Jake began, “I guess the arrangements with your government will bring our visit here to a close tomorrow?” I looked questioningly at Jake but he shook his head slightly. “I’ll fill you in later, kid.” I had Jake’s confidence and that reassured me a bit. Lord Cristobal agreed with Jake then allowed himself to be led away by Anselmo.

Jake and I had set out for the same thing, the rescue of Brett Jordan, but now my attention was drawn more on the circumstances surrounding the death of Ernest Hemingway and the similarities to Robert Jordan’s demise. If he had shot himself protecting someone else, who was it and how did it involve the Kyklos tod mene’ as a forced suicide? It seemed the closer I got to solving the riddle the more confusing it got. Rachel had been here, but how? Who had brought her here and where was she now? I found myself grateful for the fact that Jake Barnes was there with me as we formed our alliance. I imagined him to be the big brother most kids wished they had growing up. It was easy to feel confident with him in your corner.

We marched back up the stairs to our room with the guard following close behind. I could not help but wonder for as big as the Villa Vinales de Eden was why Jake and I remained sharing a room but figured since Jake had initially thought I was a criminal we would have to make the best of the arrangement. Jake had an overnight bag and offered to let me use some of his toiletries, so with the guard strategically standing out on the balcony keeping one eye on the doorways between our room and the bathroom at the head of the stairs, we both managed to prepare ourselves for bed.

As Jake took his turn in the bathroom, I lay on the bed and stared up at the ceiling thinking of Naty Revuelta and her mother leaving me at the entrance to the Villa earlier that day. Originally we had said she should return in an hour, then every half hour until I appeared at the gate again but that had been six hours ago. I knew that she would have given up way before now and wondered what she was doing, knowing I was still confined here. Did she imagine I was alive or dead? I came to regret having involved her and her family in all of the drama. I knew it was the last thing she needed then and I had no way to contact her to let her know I was all right.  Soon Jake returned.

“I hope you’re not a light sleeper.” He announced, plopping down on his side of the bed, removing his shirt and trousers. I had not slept with another male since grade school and I felt uncomfortable with the ease Jake displayed while I lay on top of the bedspread fully clothed.  “Why do you suppose we couldn’t have our own room, I mean… you told him I was no longer a suspect, right?”

Jake shrugged and pulled the spread back and bounced in between the sheets.  He pulled off his wristwatch, double checked the time and then placed it on the end table. He pulled a cigarette out of the pack he had lying there and lit it, propping one arm behind his head and laying his head back on it. He took a drag then exhaled, pursing his lips and letting the smoke shoot out with a chuckle that sounded like steam escaping.

“You don’t mind if I open the window, do you? The smoke kinda gets to me.”

Jake shrugged then added, “Just don’t trip the alarm, kid.”

“How ‘bout I leave the screen on?”

“That should do it.”

I walked over and let the right side of the window fully roll out, allowing the tropical breeze to filter in through the untouched screen. There was no couch or easy chair, just the hard backed seat I had been tied to earlier. I walked over to the bed and surveyed the room I had, imagining a center line splitting the mattress in two and Jake’s bulky figure crowding my side.

“Relax, Maryann… you’re not my type.”

“No… it’s not that, it’s just as big as this place is…” I let my voice trail off.

“Why are we sharing a room? I don’t know, kid… there’s some stuff here that don’t add up, I’m sure of that. But I don’t think we look like a mister ‘n’ misses… you catch my drift? It’s probably just an oversight so don’t worry ‘bout it. We’ll be outta here tomorrow.”

“How can you be sure?”

I sit down on the edge like my butt is a toe checking the temperature of swimming pool water, ready to lurch back up should I feel too uncomfortable.

“Look, my department has been working with these Cuban Nationals trying to get a handle on this human trafficking business for some time and if my hunch serves me correctly your friend Keith is our guy.”

“You thought I was your guy a little while ago.”

Jake turns his head giving me the once over. “And who kicked who in the balls?”

“Okay, ya gotta right to be sore.” I kicked off my shoes and carefully lay back on the bed. Jake chuckled, took another drag off his cigarette then flicked the ash off on the floor.

“Besides… it was kinda odd that you showed up.”

Now it was my turn to give him the once over. “Well, I sure as hell did not expect to find you here.”

“What did you expect?”

“I dunno, Jake… since arriving here with Sgt. Garcia I was more or less just letting the spirits move me.” I thought I was being humorous but Jake’s face snapped back at me in disbelief.

“Garcia brought you to the Villa?”

“No, someone else. Why, what’s up?” He turns his head back and relaxes.

“Nothing, fuhgettaboutit.”

“Jake… I’ve been up front with you from the get go…”

Jake Barnes stubs his cigarette out on the half shell ashtray, places it back on the end table then cradles his head with both of massive arms propping his head up off the pillow and exhales a smoke stack shooting up towards the ceiling.

“I probably shouldn’t be tellin’ you this, I don’t know why I am but here goes… remember I told you Robert killed himself trying to protect someone?”

I nodded, watching Jake’s face grow soft, half silhouetted by the table lamp on his side of the bed. I knew why Jake was talking to me. It was the shades, every bit of my interaction with Lord Cristobal had been under their direction, Jake must have felt it, too.

“A year or so ago, Brett and her brother had shared a house together. Nice place, more than I could afford. Anyway, we’ve been workin’ on this human trafficking case, which turns into a kidnaping racket run by some guy with connections in Cuba holding an American couple for ransom. Brett’s the lead detective on it, I’m brought in later as her sidekick. Evidence builds, names and places, appears to be an inside job with someone from our department. Next thing you know… a call comes in that Brett is distraught… threatenin’ to shoot herself, holed up in the house and won’t come out. Robert’s on patrol and rushes over, because it’s his sister, ya know? She lets him in, tells him it’s all over and she’s gonna do herself right there in the kitchen. Robert manages to get close enough and they struggle for the gun. Next thing you know, Robert has his finger on the trigger and the gun goes off. Brett blames herself and spends months getting help trying to cope with the guilt.”

“God, that’s terrible! What about the case, the leads and evidence you had?”

“Case goes cold, evidence gets misplaced or destroyed, Brett loses interest and almost leaves the department. She’s just recently been cleared for duty.”

“So whatever drove her to try and kill herself was never discovered?”

I know I’m pressing Jake into divulging more than he wanted to but I am still at a loss trying to figure out where a suicide ritual fit into Robert Jordan’s death. By all accounts it appeared to be an accident. Even though Brett had initiated a suicide attempt that had been thwarted by her brother’s intervention and fatal shooting. Jake rolled over on his side facing away from me.

“It’s a funny business, kid… law enforcement. New cases come and gain priority, old ones fall by the wayside and cool off. I guess, the original Americans held hostage paid up and didn’t wanna press charges fearing the publicity.  Jordan’s death really shook up the department so we were more than willin’ to let it drop… until recently, that is.”

“Another kidnaping?”

“Yeah, guess the S.O.B. that got away with it once figured it was time to try it again. Crooks rarely do the one time deal then fade off… they become bolder, kinda like a gambler, feelin’ they’ve beat the system once and can do it again.”

“Now you’re on the case as lead dog?”

I was proud to use a phrase I picked up from a T.V. show. I felt like I was a regular cop sharing inside, privileged lingo.  Jake keeps his back to me but turns his head to speak over his shoulder.

“I wouldn’t be layin’ here with your limp dick if I wasn’t!”  Then he turned his head back around and murmured to himself, “At least, it’d friggin’ BETTER be limp.”

And with that he dozed off.

Bone Island Abattoir / Part 3, The Lowdown on the Highbrow

February 6, 2011

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 beginning of this incredible story…

~

On the opposite side of the large shaded veranda where Lord Cristobal had received me earlier the household staff was setting up a long dining table. Tiki styled lanterns burning on the outside perimeter made scarecrow shadows on the villa’s walls. I had been seated first off the head of the table on one end, Jake approached accompanied by another guard and sat down across from me, leaving the seat at the end open for our “host”. The Key West detective seemed to take the security measures in stride and even thanked the guard for his company. He looked over at me and nodded.

“Some digs, huh?”

And he was right. Though we were settled back into a semi-tropically wooded area, the villa was immaculate in every detail. Even our dining table, with place settings for three, had a spread of utensils that rivaled a five-star restaurant. As I scanned the plates, cups and saucers, along with the knives, forks and spoons a thought occurred to me. I reached out and palmed a short butter knife and eased it down into my lap. Jake witnessed my lame attempt to sneak the instrument without drawing attention to myself and snorted a chuckle to himself. A five inch long butter knife made a poor choice for a weapon, but I found it comforting even though it would be too dull to even cut rope. However, I discovered later that I would have nothing to worry about. Jake and I were drawn to Lord Cristobal’s light steps clicking on the terra cotta tiles which made us both look up to see his approach. Lord Cristobal’s companion, Anselmo, was following close behind.

“Welcome to my table, gentlemen, I trust I did not keep you waiting long?”

“Nope… no, we just sat down ourselves.” Jake was jovial enough.

“How are you, Mr. Fiore? I regret the accommodations earlier were not suitable for your needs…”

“Oh…? Other than being tied to a chair, having to piss out a window, and having guns drawn on me… I’d say the room was swell.” I was attempting to joke.

“Those ropes won’t be necessary any longer,” interrupted Jake, “ I’m satisfied Mr. Fiore is not the suspect I originally thought he was.”

I looked at Jake in mild surprise but he just gave a slight shrug and continued on.

“What I’m really interested in is finding out where Brett Jordan is. I know she’s been here and now I want to know where she has been taken.”

A servant appeared with wine and offered it to Lord Cristobal for his approval as he sat down with us. Lord Cristobal nodded slightly and the steward poured for each of us. Lord Cristobal seemed amused at Jake’s remark.

“Taken, Detective? What makes you think Miss Jordan was taken anywhere, or that she has been here, for that matter? I thought we had discussed this earlier to your satisfaction.” Lord Cristobal raised his glass to us and then began to drink.

“Mr. Fiore recognized her blazer up in the room you so graciously supplied for us while you checked out my story… and his.”

Lord Cristobal turned and gave me a slight nod with a thoughtful smile.
“It seems you know more about the goings on at the Villa Vinales de Eden than I first realized, Mr. Fiore” He drank again, watching me through the glass.

“More than I want to know, sir. But my interests are the same as Detective Barnes, I just want to find Brett and get back to the States.”

“And your friends, the spirits… these shades that you had spoken to me of earlier, they sent you on this admirable quest?”

Jake Barnes looked at me questioningly but I did not take time to explain. I knew that the time for explanations was gone, it was time to lay my cards on the table. Anselmo stood idly by a few feet away so I lowered my voice.

“It is the kyklos tod mene’ that brings me here, sir. The spirits have been disrupted with an innocent death… a forced suicide. You are the babalaos, looked up to by your people and highly respected by the Cuban government. Somehow I believe your influence has been altered or misapplied in the carrying out of your ritual, I can offer no other logical explanation as to why there would be such turmoil in the spirit realm.”

I could sense Jake’s bewilderment at the content of my conversation with Lord Cristobal but he remained mute. As Lord Cristobal pondered a reply his servants appeared with trays of prepared food, allowing the voodoo priest to refrain from speaking momentarily. The first server set his tray down and removed it’s cover. It contained deep-fried pork chunks marinated in Cuban mojo and seasoned grilled onions. Another tray was set before us containing grilled chicken breast marinated in garlic and lemon topped with grilled onions. Smaller bowls were produced filled with moro rice, yuca con mojo, and sweet plantains.

“Please,” Lord Cristobal concluded, “you are my guests. Shall we desist long enough to enjoy the flavors of my country?”

I had to admit that I was more than ready to eat as I managed to slip the butter knife into my pants pocket undetected. Jake enthusiastically indulged himself with large portions of everything. I realized it had been some hours since I had eaten because my stomach leapfrogged and croaked in appreciation. We ate silently except for smidgens of polite conversation. Lord Cristobal did not seem to mind that Jake had called his bluff on Brett Jordans having been there before us.

In fact, he seemed amused by it all, like our inquiry was a game to be played with rules that he made up as we went along. The clues were to be divulged only amidst our own perceptions thus prolonging its outcome. It was as if Lord Cristobal were toying with us for lack of better company, ready to dismiss us when he became bored. I decided to change my tactics, perhaps emboldened by Jake’s clearing me of suspicion or sensing our “host” could turn hostile at any moment and our meal was nearly finished. Anselmo still remained a silent sentry.

“I wonder if you could tell me how one becomes a babalaos when he started off as a ward of Ernest Hemingway? I mean, was this something he directed you in or were there other circumstances?”

I knew Jake would have no bearing on this line of questioning and hoped the built-in “bullshit detector” he bragged of in Brett’s apartment would come into play now. Perhaps Jake’s training as a detective could glean some unintentional clues from Lord Cristobal on Brett’s whereabouts as we politely left him out of the conversation. I thought maybe Jake’s instincts would kick in as I tried to use a more direct approach on Lord Cristobal. Unfortunately, they did not.

“What the Hell is a babalaos?” Jake bellowed..

Lord Cristobal did not bother to look at Jake but addressed me with continued resolve, Anselmo’s interest in Jake seemed acute as he glared at him.

“Did your sources not educate you on this fact?”

“No sir, the shades have informed me that there are some things they can not disclose.”

I looked over at Jake and he had taken his cue to remain silent from Lord Cristobal’s snub. Jake lit a cigarette and listened begrudgingly. Lord Cristobal followed my eyes and gave a tight-lipped smile in Jake’s direction. He then allowed himself to relax and reflect momentarily.
“Very well, and you spoke truly… there are limits to what the shades can divulge, Mr. Fiore. You certainly do have their trust and guidance. Hemingway raised me as a Catholic, a religion he found very convenient.”

“Oh? How so?” I was as casual on the outside as my nerves would allow.

“Because of their proselytizing ways they have had moderate success in Africa and Cuba. It seemed natural that I would adapt to his culture and beliefs.”

“But you did not?”

“As a youth one must follow the hand that guides him, but the ancient faith of my people is strong here in Cuba. My family knew it. That is why they requested Hemingway bring me back with him. I would grow up and respond to the call of Vadou, it is in our blood. I would eventually avenge the death of my father.”

“The accidental death of Tenete’, Papa’s safari guide?”

“He was mauled to death by a lion Hemingway should have killed… would have killed, had he not panicked and jammed his rifle.

“But wasn’t that Tenete’s duty as Papa’s companion, to guide and protect him?”

“Hemingway was an experienced hunter. His lack of a quick response was inexcusable. My father’s death was certainly avoidable and created much hardship on my family.”

“So you became a voodoo priest to avenge your father’s death?”

Jake Barnes shifted noticeably in his seat, uncomfortable in his position as an observer. Quite likely he was not accustomed to someone else leading the questioning and hoped to get a word in, but lacked the understanding to do so. I paused with my last question, surprised at my own aggressive behavior and slowly wondering whether I had over stepped my bounds. But the fact that I had the shades confidence must have carried some weight with Lord Cristobal because he did not show any signs of taking offense.

“I felt the blood of my ancestors in the Vadou traditions of Cuba as a young man. With the teachings of the Catholic church I was an outsider, a convert… a Hemingway progeny. Within the faith of Vadou I was free, I was home. I abandoned Hemingway’s religion and discovered my calling. I discarded the name “Miller” and took the name Cristobal from the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese and eventually became babalaos, spiritual guide and priest of the Vadou faithful.”

“You’re sayin’ Brett’s caught up in all this voodoo mumbo jumbo?” It was Jake… unable to contain himself. I corrected him without thinking, forgetting the warning I had received from the shades.

“Not Brett, Jake… Keith, remember I mentioned him earlier? He’s the one that started me in this mess.” I realized my mistake immediately.

Servants appeared to remove our plates and offer a desert consisting of a blend of fruits but Lord Cristobal waved them away. If he had been respectful before he was more direct now, Lord Cristobal had subtle disdain in his tone.

“You know of this man, Keith?” Lord Cristobal gave me a sideways look with a raised eyebrow. Even Anselmo appeared interested as I glanced his way.

“Yes, I do. He is the reason I am here.”

“I thought your reasons coincided with Mr. Barnes, the locating of Brett Jordan?” Lord Cristobal laconically replied.

“If it weren’t for Keith I wouldn’t have ever gone to Key West and come to be in the predicament I am in now.”

Lord Cristobal’s pretense of a genteel host was fading. Jake sensed it and stubbed his cigarette out on a half-shell ashtray while exhaling his last draw of smoke downward and giving me that “caught by the principal” crinkled brow look from across the table.

“If I doubted you before I do not do so now, Mr. Fiore. The shades do guide you, but Papa should have informed you… Keith is no longer a fringe associate of mine. Further more, his involvement with the Cuban government has taken a severe turn for the worse. Keith is losing the assistance of the Castro regime he had due to my influence and no longer enjoys the sanctity of Vadou within my control. I’m afraid any involvement you have with him will compromise my hospitality.” Lord Cristobal rose from the table as if to dismiss us and depart. Anselmo stepped closer and summoned a guard that was watching us further in the shadows. My mind scrambled for any statement I might make to make him reconsider.

“You refer to his holding Americans for ransom here in Cuba, I presume?”

Jake lit another cigarette, the conversation was finally rotating back to a subject he was most keen on. He leaned back in his seat, looked up at our “host” and raised his eyebrows with a questioning expression.

“That was never part of our arrangement,” Lord Cristobal turned to acknowledge Jake then again addressed me. “Keith saw the immigrating of Cubans into the United States as an opportunity to use his connections to ransom Americans and hold them here until their release. Something the Cuban government nor myself had any prior knowledge of. Keith’s actions threatened a budding relationship between our governments.”

“What budding relationship?” Jake Barnes retorted, “The American government has sanctions against this communistic regime. It hasn’t budged in it’s stance in nearly 40 years.”

Lord Cristobal relaxed a little. He waved off the armed guard and spoke a word to his aide, who then retreated back to his original position. The fact that we were intruders in his country, his villa and his dining table was not lost in his decorum, but he remained gracious… a stance that harkened to royalty, where bad manners were no excuse to reciprocate in kind.

“And what of the kyklos tod mene’ and the death of the Key West policeman Robert Jordan?” I inquired, sensing we had softened the voodoo priest. “I’m still not clear how the shades have become involved in his seeming so displaced. Is there someone else who controls the forces of Vadou?”

“I have only used the techniques of the kyklos tod mene’ once since my anointment as babalaos,” Lord Cristobal looked at me solemnly, “against a man I had sworn to cause suffering to, as I and my family had suffered. But that was long ago…”

A cold shiver convulsed through my body with a realization that I had not counted on. Suddenly a solid piece of the puzzle became apparent. Why the shades had become involved with Robert Jordan, the method used to cause his death and the reason they would be interested.

“You mean,” my words seemed to be spoken by someone else, similar to the difficulty you have hearing when you are talking under water, “it was the kyklos tod mene’ that forced Hemingway’s suicide?”

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

January 22, 2011

 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.

Bone Island Abattoir / Part 1: A Pilar Preamble

January 9, 2011

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…

~

It was a perfect dream to be awakening on the Gulf waters, the waves pitching the Pilar in a slight, bobbing loll alternating back and forth as a watery hammock. I could not have imagined a bluer sky devoid of all but a slight willowy wisp of clouds swirling off like over sprung, cotton corkscrews. I was seated in an elevated Windsor styled wooden chair with an enormous fishing rod clutched in my hands. A gruff, familiar voice spoke from behind me.

“Better cinch that belt down tightly there, Sport. You latch onto a black marlin all loosey goosey like that and it’ll pull ya ass over tea kettle right into the drink! …along with that expensive rod and reel of mine!”

I spun around to face the person speaking to me. It was Hem, grinning and pointing a large cigar at me with all the bravado of a salty sea captain. Standing at the wheel was a man I recognized to be Goyo, his expert guide and companion.

“We are going after fish that are big enough to pull me off this boat?” I asked in disbelief, still trying to figure out where my dreams had taken me this time… and why. I was far from the confines of Jake Barnes and the Villa Vinales de Eden.

“Not just any fish, Sport… marlin! Best game fish on the planet! And yep… powerful enough to net ya up and over topside; hook, line and sinker!”

“Hem, I don’t think I’m prepared for this!”

“Relax… all you need do is hook ’em. Pilar and Goyo’ll do the rest!”

Hem came up and helped me tighten the harness that held the fisherman to his seat. He was robust and crusty, wind whipped and sun blown with a canvas billed cap perched atop of his head. The swaying of the Pilar seemed to jostle his mood and sent him sauntering to the ship’s console like a half drunken pirate. Goyo placed his hand to the throttle and eased us forward. I faced our slight wake with morbid trepidation.

“What? Where are we going?” I yelled, startled at the boat’s growling gasoline powered engine slowly trolling us forward.

“There’s a school of shiners off our port side, we’ll try to get around behind ‘em with our backs to the sun.”

“Why?” I shouted. I thought the fish came to us. All of my fishing experience was on a lazy river bank back in the Midwest under a shade tree. The actual act of catching a fish was only secondary to the art of incidentally fishing.

“Marlin like to follow schools of fish but if we don’t position ourselves right the sun will keep him from spottin’ your bait.” Hem spoke as Goyo steered, allowing his voice to be carried back to me by the hollow of the cowl overhead. “We get too close and the fish will scatter. We’ll get your hook behind ‘em and troll for a bit… might get lucky.”

“Where’s the school? I don’t see anything!”

“Look off to your right! See that area of little smatterin’ fish tails breakin’  through the water with them seabirds overhead?”

I turned in the fighting chair, looked to my right and sure enough, there was a span of nearly half a football field filled with minor disturbances just below the surface of the water as white gulls drifting in the updrafts above. No sooner had we placed my bait behind the school of shiners did I get a strike. The reel revved like a small motor and spun out hundreds of feet of fishing line. The marlin vaulted out of the water twisting and turning.

Immediately I panicked. “What’ll I do?”

“Let him run with it!” Shouted Hem as Goyo maneuvered Pilar to circumvent the marlins escape. Instantly the line went limp.

“I lost him!”

“No, you didn’t! I’ll tell you when you’ve lost it! Reel in that line!”

I tugged and pulled while I clasped the reel in my excited fingers, working the line back around the spindle as quickly as I could. Just as Goyo had swung the Pilar around and I had reeled in a mile of fishing line, the marlin bolted once again. The rod lurched forward as the line screamed off the reel.

“Loosen up that drag!” Bellowed the voice behind me.

Next thing I knew Hem was at my side pouring the contents of an iced drink on the fishing line remaining on the reel causing the steam of a miniature Mount St. Helens to erupt. Instinctively I pulled back on the pole that appeared to be on the verge of snapping in two. Time and again I recoiled the line only to have the big fish repeatedly surge lightning fast through the waters pulling hundreds of yards of yarn with it. Seemingly hours of battling the marlin passed and yet the sun hung motionless in the sky, as if Joshua himself had petitioned the God of Israel to make it stand still over the plains of Gibeon. Goyo expertly maneuvered the Pilar anticipating the direction of my catch, allowing him to run unhindered but still well within our control.

“Easy, Sport… let him run! All you can do is out last the big fella.”

It was the marlin’s last surge and somehow Hem knew it.

`“Out last him? What on earth… you mean until he’s tired and gives out?”

“Marlin fight to the end, Sport. It’s not uncommon for them to be dead or dying by the time you’re all through.”

“But why? What is the sense in that?”

“It’s in their spirit, hard to break that in nature.”

I am spinning the line back in now as rapidly as I can. Just as sudden as the fight had begun it seemed to be over. Soon I could see the massive fish coming up towards the surface just off the stern of the Pilar.

“Okay, I’ve caught the fish, now I’d like to let him go.”

“Let him go? After all you’ve put into it? Mount the brute, Sport… this is a day you’ll remember for the rest of your life!”

“I will remember it. I’ll remember coming this close to a leviathan and letting him go back to his world unharmed. He lived there peacefully before I came along and disturbed it.”

“It seems like an incredible opportunity wasted if you ask me… but, if you insist.” Hem took the rod from my hands as I undid the harness that held me in the fighting chair.

“Grab the bill with one hand but be careful … it’s like grabbin’ hold of a cheese grater. Now use that pair of fishing pliers and remove the hook with your free hand.”

Doing as I was told I lean out over the back end of the boat and gently caress the fish. Hem reaches with one hand and latches on to the waistband of my jeans. Effortlessly the hook pops out of the jaw it has lodged into.

“ Hold the bill and push it down so the fish’s entire mouth is underwater.” Hem’s voice is calm and soothing, an abrupt turn from the dismayed and obvious disappointment from just a moment before. “As the boat starts forward, water will run through the mouth and over the gills.”

My face is down, inches away from the gulping marlin. The Pilar’s engine throttles forward and we slowly advance. It is all I can do to contain my excitement. The black marlin seems to be responding.

“You’ll feel the fish comin’ back to life soon. Watch and you’ll see the color start to return to his body. Feel the bill beginnin’ to twitch? The big fella is tellin’ ya that it’s time to let him go.”

Gently I do as I am told and release the massive fish. I watch as it gracefully sinks down and out, then swims off with quiet satisfaction. Hem’s hand clasps down upon my shoulder.

“Well, you’re no Louis Schmidt… but you’ll do in a pinch.”

“Thanks Hem, that was exhilarating!”

“Yep, ya let him get away… to live and fight another day.”

“And what’s the harm in that?” I feel all smug and sure of myself. “If he can be caught once, he can be caught again.”

“Oh, ya thing so?” Hem’s eyes lock onto mine. “Not every decision you’ll make on this trip will be so cut and dry…”

We are left floundering in the water for a moment. Hem reached down and pulled out a machine gun that heralded back to WW II and began polishing it with an oil rag. It appeared more of a caressing than a chore for him but I was surprised at his ease in producing such a weapon.

“A machine gun? I thought this was a fishing boat!”

Hem smiled but did not look up.

“This is a Thompson, Sport. A great equalizer in the field of battle.”

“Are you expecting a fight way out here?” I mocked, “ and do the bad ol’ fishies get to fire back?”

Hem propped the butt of the relic upon the seat and smirked at me.

“Ya never know…”

“How’d you manage to find a gun like that in the first place?”

Hem picked up the weapon and aimed high into the air, placing his eye down the sights like he was following a target. Then he brought the Thompson back down and offered it to me, but I refused it. Hem pulled the machine gun back and returned to polishing it with the oil rag.

“We did a stint during the war, patrolling the coast and the Florida Straits hunting U-boats. This piece has traveled with me halfway ‘round the world… saw the liberation of Paris, among other things.” Hem thoughtfully let his fingers caress the stock and trigger guard. I probably didn’t act all that suitably impressed because the owning and operating of guns never interested me. Instead I look off to one side and spotted land off in the distance.

“What’s that over there… Cuba?”

Hem looks up where I am pointing to as he leans the Thompson back into the corner. Stuffing the oil rag into his back pocket Hem gets off of his perch and moves to the railing of the Pilar.

“Naw… that’s Bone Island, Sport… you’re home away from home.”

“What’s a Bone Island? I’ve never heard of it before…”

“That’s Key West.” Hem drops back in the fighting chair and wipes his brow with a handkerchief.

“Key West? Why did you call it Bone Island?”

“That’s what Ponce de Leon called it when he discovered it back in 1513. Casa Hueso… ‘Isle of Bones.’ “

”I don’t get it.”

Goyo approaches and puts a bottle beer in Hems hands, which Hem uses to cool his forehead with before taking a long, thirsty chug. Finally he wipes his mouth and pulls a stogie from his shirt pocket which Goyo immediately offers a lighted match to. Hem puffs the life back into it and then leans back into the chair.

“Legend has it that when Ponce de Leon arrived on the shores of Key West he found it littered with bones… the skeletal remains of a tribe of Calusa Indians.”

“What happened? They die of a fever or something?”

“No… it is thought that they were chased out of Florida by a rival group of Indians, clear on down through the Keys until the reached the end. Apparently the Calusas made a stand on the beach and were slaughtered then… their bones were left to bleach out in the sun.”

“So Casa Hueso was deserted when Ponce de Leon discovered it?”

“No, and that’s the interesting part. The Calusa Indians were here when ol’ Ponce first showed up and they seemed to get along fine. But when Ponce de Leon came back a few years later they were hostile towards him and tried to turn his ship away. Originally they sent out a few canoes full of Calusa warriors but the Spanish turned them back. The next day the Calusas showed up with about 80 canoes and managed to persuade the Spanish to leave, wounding Ponce de Leon in the process.  The Spanish retreated to Cuba and poor Ponce ended up dying there.”

“What made the Calusas so angry with the Spanish when they seemed to get along so well the first time they met?”

“I dunno.” Hem took another swig of beer and gazed out across the blue Gulf water towards the sliver of land on the horizon. “Maybe the ship’s sailors were going after their women or desecrated the beach where all those bones had been left scattered about. One thing is for certain… they were one tough brood.”

“Why do you say that?’

“Well… the Spaniards were armed with the latest weaponry of their day. The Calusas only had knives and axes made of stone or coral, maybe some spears… possibly bow and arrows. They turned back a group that represented the most powerful nation of that period. It took 200 years to finally relocate the Calusa Indians over to Cuba. I’d say to turn Ponce de Leon on his ear and force him to show his tail feathers and flee took some doing.”

“Casa Hueso… Isle of Bones. Sounds like a bad horror story.”

“Reality is sometimes stranger than fiction, Sport. The abattoir Ponce de Leon found on Key West probably signaled the beginning of the end of world domination for the Spanish.”

“I’d say that is pretty powerful stuff, Hem… what’s an abattoir?”

Hem rose from the chair and downed the last drops of beer then pitched the bottle out towards the water which made a bloop when it dropped in. He clapped and rubbed his hands together as if to remove any grit then wiped them on his shirt. He looked at me and grinned.

“A slaughterhouse, Sport… that’s what an abattoir is. To Ponce de Leon and his men Key West was an abattoir… the end of the line for the Calusa Indians and eventually for him, too. Key West was a friggin’ island slaughterhouse…”

Hem took up the Thompson and began rubbing it with his oil cloth slowly, appreciating every mechanism including the short barrel and wooden stock. He smiled at me as contentedly as a boy with his Christmas BB gun.

“Bone Island abattoir,” I looked to the horizon, “ the beginning of the end…”