Monday, September 7, 2015

Chapter 24


Emi was desperate and desperately embarrassed but didn’t have a choice.  “Gringo.  Uh … Nate.” 

Nate woke up instantly.  “You hurting?” 

“Sorta.  Uh … where’s the … the bano?  The bathroom?”  She heard him getting up and snapped, “I don’t need …” 

“Even if you can get down the stairs without falling you’ll probably have problems getting back up.” 

He did let her try but her legs were so shaky that she gave in before he had to force the issue.  Embarrassed Emi snarled, “This is ridiculoso.  What’s wrong with me?!” 

“At a guess?  You’re brain knows you are at a safe stopping point even if your consciousness doesn’t.  You’re body has taken a lot of abuse.  It is a wonder you haven’t been bad sick before this.” 

Denying his explanation she snapped, “I’m not sick.” 

“No, but you will be if you don’t let yourself heal up.  It … look Emi, take it however you want to but as a man it makes me … makes me … look, I like that you know you are safe here, even if it is just subconsciously right now.  Don’t let it bother you ‘cause it doesn’t bother me.” 

Real life having been taken care of Emi came out of what used to be the downstairs half bath obviously impressed.  “You know how long it’s been since I’ve used real indoor plumbing?  Since the airport.” 

“Airport?” 

“When they shipped me out of the country like a piece of rancid meat.  My mother’s cousins didn’t have it.  The ships I worked on don’t count.  And … well … there hasn’t been anything since then.  I think you are kidding.  You gotta be a Don or something important like that.” 

“What I’ve got is an artesian well out in the grove.  That’s why it smells like the bowels of hell in there,” he said referring to the heavily sulfured odor of the water.  “We try and aerate the water some before it goes into the cistern but it doesn’t help much.  You ready to go back up?” 

“Sure.  Look … about … about before.   I’m … I’m no so good … not so good I mean … about … about apologizing … but …”  She shook her head.  “I … I guess I made you mad about something.  What I’m trying to say is I didn’t mean to and I’m … I’m sorry that I did.” 

“Don’t Emi.  I got mad for a stupid reason.  Just next time if I say I can afford to get something for you don’t make out like I can’t.” 

Shaking her head Emi told him, “I wasn’t thinking that.  I just … look … I remember my parents talking about how expensive kids were and I also remember what it was like when my dad was first starting his courier business.  Momma told me it was our job – hers and mine – to make things easier on dad and my brothers because that was part of a woman’s suerta en la vida.   I ain’t ever gonna be the mujer my momma was but … but since I made a deal to be your mujer it is my job to …” 

Nate laid Emi gently back on the bed and pulled a sheet up to cover her with.  He saw she was struggling to keep her eyes open and they were suspiciously damp.  “Shhhh.  You and I have some things to work on but this time the working needs to be on my side.  I’m not angry and you need to rest.” 

While Emi went immediately to sleep, it took Nate a while longer.  He wasn’t sure if this was an issue of age or innocence – though how she still hung onto any innocence after all she’d been through he had no idea – but he was sure that Emi wasn’t pushing his buttons on purpose, at least not on this.   That said, he’d need to carefully guide her into understanding that the money issue was a sensitive one for him.  Growing up he watched his father willingly nearly work himself to death to provide for his large family.  He’d watched most of his older brothers do much the same thing but for some of them with less return as it were.  He’d set out to do the same thing for Gina but she’d never been satisfied no matter how hard he’d worked or how much he’d brought in.  She always made him feel if he could give her just a little more … but that was his hang up, not Emi’s, and he was man enough to own it.  The fact that her grandparents had been wealthy people wasn’t her fault either and it appeared she wasn’t raised spoiled, or at least not financially spoiled.  For some reason it made him even more determined to give her things but he was just as determined that she not know the reason for it.   So thinking he finally relaxed and went to sleep for what remained of the night. 

***** 

Emi woke to the sound of squirrels fighting on the window sill.  Or that’s what she thought it was until she woke up enough to remember that squirrels didn’t use English … or Spanish either for that matter.   

“All that means is that you married a whore and I’m not having my children raised by a whore.” 

“Don’t even go there Gina.  And as for you Patricia I suggest you tell your men to back off or you might not like the consequences.” 

That brought Emi the rest of the way awake.  Faster than it would take to explain it she spied her clothes folded on top of the dresser and tugged them on and then grabbed her rifle where it stood in the corner with the rest of what little she called her own in this world.  She checked to see it was properly loaded as she made her way down the stairs as quickly and quietly as she could manage.  She made it to the kitchen just in time to see a man shuck a round into his shotgun and raise it to aim.   

Emi was faster and better and the shotgun shattered in his hands.  The man fell to the ground screaming and cradling the hand that she’d shot through. 

Into the shocked silence she called, “Gringo?  Is there trouble?” 

“Yes there is.” 

“Do you want me to shoot anyone else?” 

With a shark’s bite to the words he answered, “The next one that moves without my express permission and I don’t care who it is.” 

Emi looked around carefully and saw Kiko, furious as he stood in front of Dora who held a shrieking Darla with several other children all around her.  Then she spied Bastian being held onto by a large hombre who looked like he would just as soon tear his arm off.  Emi called, “Bastian?  You like where you’re at?” 

“No!” 

“Then you move over by your Uncle Kiko.  Si?” 

The hombre didn’t want to let Bastian go until Emi put the laser from her scope right into his eye almost blinding him.  He got the message and let the boy go but he gave her a feral grin that promised bad things.  Emi had been promised bad things before and filed it away for future reference. 

Gina and her mother started making the same noise the chickens make when they get their feathers ruffled but shut up when Emi took turns letting them know that she wasn’t above using the laser scope on them either and then when the big guy with the bad ideas tried to charge he got lead poisoning from several angles … hers took him in the throat, Nate’s got him in the chest, Kiko’s took him in the back, and a man running up from the river got him in the gut.  The guy was dead before he hit the ground. 

Gina started screaming louder than Darla.  “Nauldo!  Nauldo!!” 

Emi saw movement out of the corner of her eye and took out two more men while a third was taken out by a man on the roof.  That finished off those that had any ideas of being the bigger bad. 

It took a while to sort things out to Nate’s satisfaction and while he did so Emi hustled Bastian and Dora and the little girl and other children into the house and would growl at anyone that came too close to the door where she leaned that she didn’t recognize.  Once Bastian tried to come to stand beside her but she told him, “No hijo.  Stay over there with your Aunt Dora and the others.  If a shot comes in, I don’t want you to be a target.” 

As things calmed Emi said, “I musta missed something big.  Your crew and Nate’s ex showing up.  Was it at the same time?  Together?” 

“It wasn’t together.  Benji came by our place and asked if Angelique – that’s Kiko’s cousin by the way – would come give you a look over.  And don’t growl like that, she’s the older woman out there dosing Gina so she’ll … er …” 

“It’s ok Aunt Dora,” Bastian said sounding like a sad little old man when he realized his aunt stopped talking because of him.  “I know she has problems.  Aunt Arden explained it to me when Dad was still too sad about it.  She’s got herself all worked up and now can’t stop even if she wanted to.  Tia Angelique is helping her to stop before she makes herself sick and pukes like she normally does.” 

Emi spared a glance at Dora to see her nod her head with a grim expression.  Needing some answers that might not come if the children were in the room Emi said, “Bastian, why don’t you get your Aunt Dora and the kids something to drink?” 

“Actually, let him take them to his room.  It is just up the stairs and down the hall so they won’t be far.” 

“Bastian the shutters closed?” 

He answered her, “No, but we’ll close them when we get up there.  I guess Aunt Dora wants to talk to you about … about her.” 

After the little boys traipsed eagerly after Bastian and were out of earshot Dora sighed.  “He can’t even call her momma anymore.” 

As she kept an eye on what was going on in the yard Emi responded, “I’d noticed but wasn’t sure what to make of it.” 

“This is only going to make it worse.” 

“This as in what happened just now or this as in me?” 

“Both if you turn out to be what’s best for Nate and the kids.  You gonna turn out to be that?” 

“No clue.  For now Nate wants me.  Not sure how he’ll feel when he actually gets to know me.” 

“Hmmm.” 

Emi brushed a small wasp away from her face and told Dora, “I’m not looking to make trouble, don’t want it either.  Nate and I have a deal and I’ll do my best to hold up my end … including stuff like just happened.  But he’ll have to decide whether that is what he really wants long term.  And Bastian … he’s a good kid and I don’t want to make it harder on him.  But my job is to keep him and anyone else Nate tells me safe.  Which brings us to that oversized hombre … that Nauldo … I take it he was the guy Gina was shacked up with?” 

“Yeah.  The others were men he’d picked out for Mrs. Rivera’s crew.  She has a good sized fishing operation that her husband started up after things fell apart and most started figuring out that we’d have to find food close to home or not at all.  Her son runs most of it now but she still has majority control since her husband’s death last year.  She was getting crowded by her competition and a few even tried to take out their headquarters.  Nate can tell you the rest.” 

“If the hombre was a smuggler and was getting too friendly with the family, it probably made their competitors nervous.   Anyway, I still don’t get what Gina was doing here?  She still upset about the kids?” 

“My honest opinion?”  At Emi’s guarded nod she said, “It was a cover, or Nauldo was using her as a cover and Mrs. Rivera as a distraction.  Nauldo and his men were too interested in what Nate had brought in.” 

“Loose lips … Nate expected it, or at least seemed to be expecting something.” 

“Hmmm.  You know you hold up that door any harder and you’re going to take the house out of square.” 

“Huh?” 

“Don’t play dumb.  You’re hands are pretty steady but I’ve seen your legs shaking when you unlock them to keep the circulation going.  And don’t try and fool me, I’ve seen the same thing in Kiko and his men when they were on the ragged edge of nothing left to give.” 

Emi didn’t have to respond because it was that moment that Nate stepped onto the veranda and guided her into the kitchen.  “Where are the kids?” 

“Darla is sleeping in some little bed thing Bastian pulled in here and he and all the little Kikos are upstairs in his room.” 

After a moment of silence Nate asked, “Not gonna say anything about my pretty face?”   

Seeing the bruising around his eye and his busted lip up close for the first time Emi said, “Not in front of your sister.  Just tell me the cabron that did it is one of the ones I shot.” 

Nate gave a twisted smile.  “Nauldo.” 

“Too bad we didn’t have no gators to feed him to a piece at a time … before he got lead poisoning.  Is there law around here?” 

“None that will make noise about Nauldo going to his Judgment Day.  You step outside Ft. Myers city limits and the rule of law is very, very basic and Castle Law officially extends to your property boundary.  On the water Maritime Law applies.” 

“Good to know.  Now what kinda mess can Mrs. Rivera make?  As I remember she was really good at giving other people heart burn.” 

Nate had gone over and poured all three of them cups of water, handing the first one to Dora and then looking at Emi until she consented to put the rifle down and drink hers.  After that he answered her.  “Patricia is in a bit of shock as the men in her crew that weren’t Nauldo’s men told her some uncomfortable facts including that a lot of people think the raid that wound up causing her husband’s fatal heart attack was set up by Nauldo, or his boss.” 

“Do you think this boss is going to be sad that I made Nauldo muerto?” 

“No.  The boss was assassinated not too long after that raid and suddenly Nauldo is a bigger man than he should have been.” 

Emi muttered her general opinion of men, stupid men, greedy men, and stupid, greedy men in particular in a long, low torrent of feisty Spanish.  Both Dora and Nate whistled in appreciation with Nate teasing, “You’ll need to take that to Confession.” 

Finally sliding into a chair that Nate practically shoved under her Emi said, “If I confess all my sins the priest will lose all his hair before I finish.  It’s why I send them direct air mail to God … saves another sin of traumatizing a priest.” 

A surprised giggle escaped from Dora which in turn made Nate smile like the cat that got the cream.   

Emi heard the floor near the stairwell squeak and looked at Nate.  He nodded and said a little more loudly than necessary, “Gina and her mother will be leaving shortly.  If Bastian wants to say good bye to his grandmother he can come down but I’d prefer he wave from the window.” 

Emi looked slightly uncomfortable before suggesting, “Why don’t you … you let me speak to Mrs. Rivera.” 

“Wait … why?” 

“Gotta find some peace in this mess some place Gringo or neither one of us will have any quiet.  I don’t like the woman for my own reasons but that don’t make her malo … bad.  And she is your kids’ grandmother.  My own grandmother – my mother’s mother – could be incredibly strict and I hated it but it wasn’t because she didn’t care for me, more like she cared so much she forgot to ask me what I wanted since she believed she knew best all the time.  I don’t want to be the cause of Bastian having no heartache.  I make peace with the old … er … with Mrs. Rivera or at least start it, it’ll make things easier for your kids in the long run.”

In some consternation Nate told her, “This type of thing wasn’t part of the deal Emi.” 

Emi shrugged.  “Eh, I look at it one way, you look at it another.  Like I said, if I can keep my mouth shut around La Gran Bufalo that was my mother’s cousin’s wife then this should be a piece of pastel … cake I mean … piece of cake.  Mrs. Rivera is a tough ol’ gator but she’s nothing compared to what I had to deal with in Honduras.  At least let me try … for Bastian and Darla.” 

Emi felt that Nate was going to say no but he was called away before he could voice it.  Emi then looked at Dora who was no help.  She decided that she was going to at least try her way and got up and walked out onto the porch.   

Gina was being loaded into an older model car that looked – and smelled – like it had been converted to some kind of alternative fuel, possibly methane.  Mrs. Rivera stood off to the side observing.  She was pale and nervous but trying not to show it.  Emi walked over to her but stopped several feet back giving both of them plenty of personal space to have the conversation. 

Mrs. Rivera’s nose flared and her chin came up.  “You aimed a gun at me.” 

“Yes I did … ma’am.  You were a threat.  However, it has come out that Gina’s … uh … Gina’s … er …  anyway he was the real threat.  Nate explained how that Nauldo took advantage of you.” 

“I beg your pardon?” 

“You are grieving for Dr. Rivera.  You expected that Nauldo to … er … support the family, not abuse your trust.  So …” 

Emi wasn’t sure how to say what she had intended to say and Mrs. Rivera only stood there imperious as she ever had been.  Finally Emi just said it baldly even if it came out rudely.  “So look, I figure everyone is out to make sure that Bastian and Darla get taken care of right.  Nate has expectations.  You have expectations.  Gina … well, she’s not … hmmm … she’s not in a good place right now to be able to shoulder the responsibility of being a momma.  And you have a boatload of responsibilities as well.  Nate trusted Arden … well I’ve sorta come to fill Arden’s place … kinda like a housekeeper and nanny … a package deal that he got a priest to witness.  The … the priest was my Uncle Roger so you know there is no mal negosio … I mean no bad business.  Uncle Roger … he wouldn’t …” 

Having finally placed the young woman with the girl she had in school Mrs. Rivera asked, “Father Jensen was really the priest that married you?” 

“Si … er … yes ma’am.  He didn’t recognize me at first so there were no special favors involved.  And you know he would never tolerate any attempt by me to … to …”  Emi shut up.  Trying to make peace was one thing.  Humiliating herself was another. 

“And the purpose of you telling me this?” 

“Like I said, we all want what is best for the kids.  It was the only reason Nate got me.  Arden had waited long enough and had her calling to answer to.   Gina isn’t … she isn’t well.”  That’s not precisely what Emi was thinking after seeing how she acted but she figured it would go over better with Mrs. Rivera than calling her daughter a pedazo de besura blanco. 

“Gina is … fragile.  At the moment.” 

“Sure.  Anyone can see it.  Makes it hard for her to make good decisions.  She needs to focus on … on … her … uh … on pulling herself together after what all she’s been through.  So what I’m saying is … we let her focus on herself for a while.  She should take as long as she needs.  But I don’t think anyone wants to really see her – or you and Arden – cut off from the kids.  But maybe after seeing his mother act … er … fragile it isn’t such a good time for Bastian to … to come down.  He might ask questions he ain’t old enough to understand the answers to.  Maybe the porch to say good bye to you?  But not where Gina would see and get upset all over again.  What do you think?” 

Mrs. Rivera was a cranky old bat but she was no fool.  She knew she was being played.  Unwillingly however she also sensed that Emi was doing it so they could all walk away with some dignity and to avoid further drama.  She decided for the time being she would allow herself to appear to go along with it and see where things went.  She wouldn’t be kept from her grandchildren but for now she needed to focus on getting Gina cleaned up and behaving with more decorum. 

“Very well.” 

“Would you care to have Bastian come to the porch?” 

“No.  I must see to his mother’s care.  He’s old enough to understand that if it is explained properly which I expect that it will be.”  That left Emi in no doubt what her place was going to be.  “You will see that Bastian writes to her and me, and that the letters are sent over weekly.” 

The glare meant nothing to Emi who rarely cared what anyone thought one way or the other; however, rather than agreeing to the terms outright she said, “I’ll speak with Nate and see what can be arranged.” 

“See that you do.  And I also wish to be kept apprised of their progress in school and any other matters of importance.” 

With that she turned away dismissing Emi who struggled to not give her a gesture to take with her.

7 comments:

  1. Fantastic story Kathy, glad to see that you have more time to write. Praying for you and yours.
    Wayne

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  2. Fantastic story Kathy, glad to see that you have more time to write. Praying for you and yours.
    Wayne

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  3. mucho thanks! :) sigh, I can sleep now ;)

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  4. Thank you for taking the time in your crazily busy life to write for us. I know that many of us appreciate your efforts very much.

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  5. Great story. Thanks Kathy. Hope you and family are faring well in this busy life. Ive been out if the loop for a long time and its nice to have some chapters to come back to.

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  6. Great story. Thanks Kathy. Hope you and family are faring well in this busy life. Ive been out if the loop for a long time and its nice to have some chapters to come back to.

    ReplyDelete