Balthazaar sat in a cafe in the shopping district of Vera Cruz sipping a coffee by the window. He stared idly out at the street as he played the 'what went wrong' game over in his mind. Ricardo trusted his friend in Africa who had offered up the stones and arranged for their transport. But the package probably traded hands along its route to the gulf coast. The smuggling of most things occurs in a pony express of relay runners. Stone runners, gun runners, drug runners, people runners. Somewhere along the way the stones fell into the hands of some ruthless cut-throats bent on making off with the money and the stones.
Graciano strolled idly down the Avenida las Vistas, a gradual downhill to the harbor and the sea. He would nose around. Maybe rent a boat himself. The Sweet Jane would not likely be found in the busy harbor among the other boats, but perhaps anchored somewhere just north or south. He had played this kind of chess with enemies before. Thinking about the kind of move they might likely make, developing counter strategies.
Ricardo and Josephina cruised slowly into the ramshackle outskirts of Vera Cruz. Joesphina peered out at the local folks walking along the streets as though by some miracle she might suddenly see Violet walking along among them. She traced a city map on her lap with her finger, steering Balthazaar to downtown Vera Cruz and to the hotel where Graciano said he was staying.
FEAR AND TREMBLING
Violet felt quite timid to step out onto the streets of Vera Cruz. She paused several times to glance at her reflection in the store windows, as though to assure herself she didn't look like who she was - that she looked local and belonged here. She stopped at a news stand and bought a local paper and a magazine, then turned the corner. The bank was two blocks down.
At the officer's desk at the Banco de Mexico the man had few questions. She wanted a small lock box. The smallest they had. He gave her a page to fill out and she paid a small deposit and then followed him into a room, three walls of which were lined with boxes arranged according to size. He turned a key in a lock box 707 and then handed her a personal key to open the second lock. As he left he pointed to several doors to private booths in which one could do their business. She carried her box into one of the small rooms and closed the door behind her. She turned the deadlock on the door and felt a sudden sense of relief. She felt safe, if only for a few moments. She was locked in a small windowless room at the back of the vault of a bank. Her knees felt weak as she sat down before the small table and set the box in front of her. She sat there for a few moments feeling the toll of the past few days on her body. She felt suddenly very tired. She wondered where Balthazaar could possibly be, and her mother Josephina, and Ricardo. Are they frantic? Do they have any idea of her whereabouts? She thought about her father, but he was so far away in Panama and probably doesn't even know what trouble she had brought on herself. It was probably better that way. She would not know how to tell him. It would be so humiliating. He was such a man of honor and integrity. A freedom fighter. And she had let him down.
She hurriedly opened the box. The stones clattered like loaded dice as she tossed them in. Her life seemed a crap shoot in a dark alley. Her soul but a stack of chips laid out on a table on some number against the odds. A shudder ran through her. Her hands trembled as she closed the box. She left the security of the bank and walked quickly back to Juan and Cindy's place feeling her vulnerability once again. Glancing over her shoulder.
Balthazaar walked down the street in the approaching darkness feeling lured by some distant music and laughter down on the plaza. He followed those sounds wanting to drown his loneliness amidst the gathering crowd. In the middle of the ancient brick plaza stood a covered stage of sorts. An old gazebo of weathered wood and peeling white paint. A small band was playing an infectious music made for dancing. A Danzone. And people were dancing as though there were no cares. Little children too. He laughed almost hysterically with the joyousness of the moment. A relief from the heaviness of his heart. He strolled along the sidewalk around the large square. Those lucky enough to live in one of the old buildings leaned out their windows waving, clapping, talking to one another, or simply watching the nightly show from their perch. Vendors and peddlers were strewn about along the sidewalk. One could find most anything there. There were ashtrays of low-fired red clay embedded with pieces of abalone shell pressed in. Stuffed iguanas in various poses. Coral necklaces and ear danglers. Shark's teeth and endless sea shells. The sea's bounty was at the heart of Vera Cruz. The danzon was the endless celebration of the harvest. He paused amidst the crowd to watch the dancers.
For many of the young lovers, the danzon was a kind of foreplay for what they might later do. The rhythm of the music itself seemed about passionate fucking. It provoked sensual movements. It was up close and personal. It was all in the hips. Balthazaar smiled as he saw a young girl stomp away from a boy who was too amorous in groping her ass. The boy was following her through the crowd wanting to undress her perhaps in the alley. He looked around at those who gathered to watch the dancers and hear the relentless music. His eyes suddenly did a double take at three people on the opposite side of the plaza. A man and two women. Of the two women there was one his eyes got stuck on. She didn't look like Violet, but there was something in the way she stood. Even the way she turned her head here and there to look around. Her shoulders. Her hips. He knew those shoulders. He knew those hips. He knew those ways she turned her head. His heart began to pound. He hurried through the crowd angering more than one with his rude manner on such a night.
end of chapter Three.....stay tuned.