***next morning, Parker’s Hacienda***
As was my habit most mornings, I was usually awake at the first hint of daylight. I could see sharp glints of sunlight through the curtains along the window, the occasional bit of dust floating effortlessly around. Kelsey was lying next to me, her warm, sensuous body a welcome contrast to the chill in the air.....a chill brought about by Hermano's letter. I had read the letter the night before and still couldn’t believe what he had planned. If the letter was indeed from him, then the rebels under his command, the Provisional Revolutionary Front(PRF), were indeed on the cusp of overthrowing El Presidente. His plan was audacious to say the least but I wondered, why let me know about it? Putting the thought away, I grabbed the satellite phone and dialed a number from memory. A couple of rings later someone answered in a somewhat sleepy tome. “Hullo?”
“Mike? I didn’t wake up you up, did I?”
“No, Matt, its’ only four hours time difference between Velo City and Isla Apuro. Just be glad Sarah didn’t answer the phone instead of me. What’s up?”
“Nothing much; just woke up a few minutes. I need to joust that brain of yours, Mike.”
“Remember back in January our crew came to Isla Apuro to help out someone named Hermano Rodriguez?”
“The rebel leader? Yeah, I remember; I also got my *** shot off by one of El Presidente’s guardsmen!”
“Well, I did tell you to run faster, right? Anyway, how soon can you get the gang assembled and down here?” I read Mike the letter Hermano had written; he whistled softly in the background. “You sure? I thought we were out of the–“
A few moments of silence ensued before Chevalier answered. “What’s the sat phone’s number?” I reeled off the number of Rog’s sat phone and waited for an answer. “Give me six hours to talk to everyone; I’ll call you back at 2pm your time, Matt.”
“Fair enough.” 2pm Atlantic Daylight Time in Isla Apuro was 10am Pacific Daylight Time in Velo City. Setting down the satellite phone, I picked up my Rolex GMT Master watch and set the watch for both Isla Apuro and Velo City time. Walking over to the window, I looked out upon the verdant tropical landscape and thought, Okay, buster.......just what have you gotten yourself into now?
***mid-afternoon, St. George, Isla Apuro***
Mike’s late, I thought to myself as I sat in a lounge chair along St. George’s Grand Anse beach, sipping on a rum-n’-coke, jotting down a few notes and simply admiring the view.....and what a view it was. Not very many places can boast of a waterfront beach in the shadow of a town or city, but St. George had it in Grand Anse. The beach stretched for at least a few miles to the north and to the south of St. George. Setting the drink and note pad down for a moment, I sat up and leaned forward, my elbows resting on my knees as I felt the sun’s warmth heat its’ way into my skin. I could feel the sun burning itself into my shoulders; it felt good. For a few minutes I allowed my mind to drift away; it was during this that the satellite phone rang. Picking it up, I answered, “Hello?”
“Matt, its’ Mike; I said I’d call back at 2pm. Where you guys at?”
“On the beach, Mike. I’m sitting here enjoying a drink; Kelsey’s out sightseeing back in St. George. What’d you find out?”
“Good news and bad news, Matt.”
“Good news first.”
“I got the rest of the crew assembled; barring any delays, we should be there in a couple of days. We’ll have the grand suite with us,” he added, which meant they would be bringing weapons with them. “And the bad news, Mike?”
“Isla Apuro’s in the news Stateside, and it ain’t pretty. That plane getting shot at up in Grenville was the lead story on most of the news channels; on top of that, it looks as though the FAA’s gonna shut down commercial traffic between Miami and St. George. Note I said commercial traffic; we’ll still get there, though; they haven’t as of yet shut down all air traffic.”
I sighed audibly. No commercial traffic meant both passenger and cargo flights. In essence, Kelsey and I were stuck in St. George for the immediate time being. “In addition, you two watch yourselves. Rumor has it El Presidente’s bought himself a ton of mercs’ to protect himself and the island. Guess he doesn’t trust his own Guardsmen, huh?” If that was the case, then things were rapidly getting worse or Hermano’s rebels were gaining the upper hand over El Presidente. “I gotta’ take off for now; stay safe, alright?”
As he hung up, I sat on the side of the lounge chair and looked around. Sliding a pair of docksiders’ on, I got up and began walking off the beach, notepad in one cargo pocket, sat phone in another. After about a minute of walking in the loose sand, I finally reached the highway and walked over to where I had parked one of St. George’s most ubiquitous items, the ever-present island dune buggy. Climbing in, I noticed a piece of paper in the passenger seat with a small rock on top to keep it from blowing away. Picking up the paper, I read it; it was from Hermano, of all people......... “Amigo. I hear you and your lady friend have arrived in Isla Apuro. I hope you got my letter; several of my compatriots risked their lives sending it. Meet me in Antoine Lake as soon as it is possible for you to do so; we must talk. Hermano.”
I whistled for a brief moment as I folded the paper up and placed it in a cargo pocket. Antoine Lake was clear on the other side of Isla Apuro, well past the government’s roadblocks and close to the village of La Poterie on the northeast coast. Starting the dune buggy up, I drove off and headed back towards St. George.
***late-afternoon, St. George, Isla Apuro***
Okay, now what?, I thought to myself. After driving around St. George for a while, Kelsey and I were headed back towards the hacienda when we hit a roadblock, complete with several Guardsmen armed and in a not-so-charitable mood. Calling over to one of them, I asked, “What’s going on?”
After what seemed like an eternity, one of the Guardsmen walked over. “There is a protest up ahead; it is not safe for you to travel that way. Please turn around,” he said as another guardsman pointed his FN-FAL towards us. Raising my hands up in a “okay, whatever” expression, I turned the dune buggy around and headed back down the road. After getting out of sight of them, I turned the buggy onto a side street and methodically drove around the roadblock.......right into the path of the protest! Pulling over, I got out of the dune buggy and motioned for Kelsey to do the same. As we walked over to a nearby building, she asked, “What’s wrong, Matt?”
Running over to a nearby street corner, I peeked around the building; down the road we had been on was the roadblock, now with additional soldiers. Looking back in the other direction, I saw what looked like several hundred protesters marching down the road, waving red protest flags and numerous signs saying “Down With Tyranny!” and holding pictures of former Isla Apuro leader Gustavo Rodriguez. They’re walking right into a trap, I thought. Running back to the dune buggy, I told her, “There’s a protest underway, babe, and from the looks of it, its’ going to get very bloody, very quickly?”
“What’s about to get very bloody, very quickly?,” another voice said. We both turned around to see a short, rather foppish man, notepad and camera with him.
“Trevor, what in the hell are you doing here?” Kelsey was drawing a blank, so I explained who Trevor was to her. “Kelsey McNeal, meet Trevor Koen, freelance journalist and number one pain in the ***.” I had worked with Trevor once before; in fact, it was during the last time I had visited the island, the reward being that we both nearly died from the experience. “Like I was saying,” he continued, “what’s about to get–“
Grabbing him by the arm, I dragged him over to the one corner, pointed towards the guards, then pointed to the protesters. “Oh my God,” he thought out loud. “They’re going to get–“
”Oh, you think, Sherlock?” Dragging him back to the dune buggy, all three of us got in and drove off as fast as possible. As we were driving away, I looked over at Kelsey and changed subjects. “So, how was your day, hon?”
“Other than seeing so many roadblocks throughout St. George, it wasn’t that bad,” she replied.
“You should see the heart of St. George, Matt; roadblocks everywhere.” After several minutes of negotiating the narrow streets in the area, we hit the main road back to the hacienda. Eventually we made it back to the hacienda.
Parking the dune buggy next to Rhino’s Hummer gave me an.......well, interesting idea. “Trevor, remember the last time we were in Isla Apuro? Those fake documents you made that allowed us to leave the island?”
“How soon would it take you to make, say, three sets of travel docs.” Explaining what I had in mind, he gave me a mischievous grin. “Give me a day to get everything in order, okay?”
Calling over to Rhino, who was standing near the hacienda’s main entrance, I said to him, “Chris, I want you to help Trevor with something, okay?” Nodding, he and Trevor ran inside the hacienda. Standing near the entrance, I thought to myself, hope this plan works. As I stood there, Kelsey walked over and asked, “Now, what have you got in mind now?”
I explained the note that had been left on the dune buggy’s seat and the plan I had in mind. “Think it’ll work?,” she asked.
Doing an ‘either-or’ expression with my hands, I replied, “It either works and we meet Hermano or it doesn’t work and we get a couple of eight-ball hemorrhages for our efforts.” The sarcasm wasn’t lost on her as we walked inside the hacienda. Either way, our vacation was rapidly turning into something entirely different.