chapter 4

“Pedro, we have so much in common,” Garcia softly said to the shadows. He sat on a crate and leaned on a big green cardboard box sealed with broad strips of tan-colored tape. One of Ramón’s feet rested on the floor while the other swung lazily back and forth. “We both came to this country seeking our fortunes. We each had our own way, but didn’t I always tell you mine was best?

“I never could figure out why you wanted to join the Navy. The Sea Bees of all things! Was that your woman’s idea? It hurt my heart, Pedro, to see you waste your know-how and talent as the best hustler I’ve ever known, by becoming a nobody construction worker, an albañil, with a nobody’s nine-to-five job. What good did that ever do you?”

“What good?” Pedro thought, incredulously. “An education; my own business; some stability; a little self-respect; and a chance to start a family of my own.” Gratitude and melancholy, in equal measure, welled up in his heart for all he had gained and lost. The only way he could respond was to rear back and crow softly as a prayer, “Jak-Kahhh Kah-Roooo!” 

Garcia continued to scoff, “When was the last time you had to build a road, or blow up a bridge? Of course, on the other hand, you do blow up yachts quite well.”

Garcia mused earnestly, “And then there was Gwendolina.” Garcia’s hands knotted again. “Dios, she was beautiful.”

“Shut up!” Pedro thought.

“We both wanted her, but your respectable ways and fine Navy uniform finally won her heart,” he said as calmly as commenting about the weather on a summer’s day. “And did I begrudge you your victory? No! Good for you, I said. All’s fair in love,” he philosophized, even though the color of the knuckles on his fists paled from cafê con leche to white. “But you know, when I think back on it,” he said thoughtfully, “she wasn’t really that good in bed anyway.”

“Shut up,” Pedro muttered aloud. He kept moving under the rafters, avoiding Garcia’s men who were clumsily navigating the precarious catwalks, but he couldn’t help pausing now and then, to listen.

“I was even happier for you when your boy was born,” Garcia continued wistfully. “In another lifetime, he could have been my own son.”

Pedro suddenly saw himself and his beautiful hijo, his son, at bedtime. Juan wanted his father to read him his favorite fairy tale: the story of a magical little boy who lost his shadow, and never grew up, and could fly.

“Such a handsome child,” Garcia said. “So bright and lively. Such a pity.”

“Shut up!” Pedro said, more loudly now. He had stopped moving among the rafters. He stood rigid with rage.

“When your old construction business turned sour and your new warehouse business ran into hard times, did I begrudge and old friend?” Of course not. All I asked in return was that you help cut through the ‘red tape’ of Customs when I imported certain—goods. We had an agreement. We had a deal. And did we not both profit?

“Why couldn’t you have just let it alone, Pedro? Why did you, the good man, the honest man, start stealing from me? What made you think you could?”

Smead stood behind Garcia, hunkered over his walkie-talkie. Surreptitiously, he slipped his expensive new diamond ring into the hideaway of his pocket.

“Everyone knows what is mine, is mine. Everyone knows what I do to those who try to take what is mine from me. It’s all your fault, Pedro. You were supposed to be there, not Gwendolina and your boy. All this sorrow because you got greedy!”

“SHUT UP!” Pedro shouted.

Pedro realized that calling out would give away his location. But that didn’t matter. He couldn’t let such lies go unchallenged. In spite of everything, he knew he would avenge Gwendolina and the Lost Boy, no matter what.

Pedro heard clumsy, clattering footsteps heading in his direction, and saw thin flashlight beams converging towards him. Quickly, he clambered across a timber, around a brace, over and empty catwalk and into the shelter of the dark.

As he ran, the vision of the dark-haired woman and her child reappeared. They kept pace with him the way the Moon does when you race down a country road. “I’m sorry,” Pedro told them. “Business was bad and I had to find some way to take care of you. I knew, but didn’t want to admit, that Garcia was smuggling contraband, drugs, and weapons. When I wanted to stop, Ramón, my dearest childhood compadre, threatened all our lives.”

Papá,” said the Lost Boy, “fly away!”

“I can’t leave,” Pedro replied. “I am to blame. There will be justice. It’s just a matter of time.”

Pedro was too grown up to fly, so he had to improvise. He secured one end of a sturdy rope to a rafter, and wrapped the other end around his fleshy torso and then under his thick arms. He waited patiently as Garcia’s bodyguards passed beneath him, and then Garcia himself.

In the military, they call descending from a high place with the aid of a rope, “rappelling.” But Pedro knew better: This was what little boys do when they grow up and forget how to fly.

Pedro threw the free end of the rope off the catwalk and jumped after it. Faster than a wish, Pedro slid down to the top of a pile of crates, flicked open his dagger, then leaped on the back of his eternal foe, the infamous capitan Garcia. Pedro’s impact smashed Ramón to the concrete floor with a woof.

Pedro’s knife cut through the back of Ramón’s camelhair coat like a cutlass through sailcloth. He had struck with killing force, but incredibly the blade stopped short of sinking into Garcia’s flesh. There was a gash across his enemy’s back, but not the critical wound Pedro had expected.

With a ferocious roar, Garcia rammed his elbow back into Pedro’s soft belly and threw his attacker off his back. Pedro’s stomach was full and the impact almost made him vomit. In a panic to keep from regurgitating, he swallowed hard and forced down his bile. In those few moments, Ramón’s bodyguards tore into Pedro the way sharks tear into a captive who has walked the plank and fallen into the sea. One blow, then another, blackjacked Pedro towards unconsciousness.

Ramón Garcia was an evil man; Ramón Garcia was a cunning man. Beneath his very impractical attire, he wore a very practical kevlar vest. Even with its protection, he had suffered a pressure cut that pooled a trickle of blood into a wet spot at the base of his spine. But he would live to have his revenge.

As the marauders’ blows fell, Pedro’s vision became a starry darkness. He could still see Gwendolina and the Lost Boy staring back at him sadly as they drifted farther and farther away into the firmament. Tink’ went with them, showing them the way. Little by little, they dwindled until they finally vanished near the second star from the right. As Pedro lost consciousness, his last thought was, “I will not fail you again. In time, Good will win over Evil.”

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