Ricardo and Josephina sat there in the hotel room as Graciano paced about. He stopped by the window and stared out toward the distant harbor. The room was silent for a minute or so. It felt like the calm before the storm.
"We need not talk any further about what has happened before, but only about what to do now," he said. He turned and sat down in a chair next to them, clasping his hands together and looking down at them.
"We must move now into a calculated plan of action," he said, looking up at Ricardo and Josephina, his lips a thin emotionless line across his face. "It will call for a silent but deadly coup." Ricardo seemed to stiffen into full attention as Graciano's words raised the hair on his arms. He was only beginning to know why Graciano was a legend. "It will be as though it never really happened," Graciano continued. "There will be only an empty beach house in the end. A dormant boat moored to the pier as though no one had ever been there. We will leave Vera Cruz with Violet and Balthazaar at our sides, or we will simply be taking their remains home to properly bury them." He stood and began pacing the room again. Josephina watched him intently as though drawn into what she had loved about him for so long. His charisma, his passion, his resolve.
Graciano paused by the window again. "We will need a small cabin cruiser," he said, as he turned to look at Ricardo. "Nothing fancy. It should look local. Walk the harbor, Ricardo. See what you can come up with." Ricardo nodded. "A local fishing boat with a cabin," Graciano said. "Tomorrow we will go fishing then, and study the terrain around the beach house and the Lady Jane." He fished into his jacket pocket and handed Ricardo a roll of bills. "Pay what you must," he said. He raised his hand and counted off the agenda with his fingers as though thinking to himself. "Subterfuge, arsenal, ambush. Like an owl swooping silently through the night
snatching up a rodent or a snake...a sniper set-up with a silencer." He turned to look at Josephina. "If you would please, go down to the hotel lobby and be a tourist. Talk to the concierge. Ask for any maps of sights to see, and street or highway maps. Be discreet, Josephina." Josephina smiled. Graciano had taught her the art of discretion long ago.
Graciano walked over to the table by the bed and picked up a bottle of wine. "We must drink now," he said. "A toast to the liberation." He poured their glasses and his own. "Here is to freedom," he said, raising his glass.
"Here is to Violet and Balthazaar," Ricardo said. Josephina raised her glass.
"Here is to love."
Balthazaar looked over at Violet as their captors began to talk among themselves. Tears rolled down her cheeks and over the tape that sealed her mouth.
"It's ok," he tried to say as he looked into her eyes. Their eyes embraced as though to be together in some way should it be the case they might die then and there. Violet nodded her understanding. Balthazaar nodded back.
(to be continued)