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11

THE SHOCK OF SEEING HIM was instant, even before he called her name. She had just now arrived home. Turned from the front door to see Corky hurrying toward the blue car in the driveway, Rafi getting out, smiling-there, at that moment-knowing who it was before she saw his face clearly but recognizing something about him, Corky shoving him then, keeping him against the car, and Rafi was calling, Mary, help me!

Beaming then, all a joke, with a few words in Spanish for Corky and he was coming to her with outstretched hands-to do what, put his arms around her? She took his hands, managed to smile and said pleasantly, with a note of surprise, Well It was the best she could do.

Mary, Mary, its so wonderful to see you again! His head darted and he kissed her, almost on the mouth, before she could pull back.

Mary said, Well She said something that sounded like, What a surprise.

Altagracia served them chilled white wine on the sundeck. Rafi made a show of raising his to the fading sun and came close to rejoicing over the red hues reflected in his glass. He wore his tailored white Dominican shirt, the squared-off tails hanging free of his trousers.

Its lovely, Rafi said then, everything, your home, your-how should I say?-your taste in decorating, its as I imagine it would be.

Mary said, I didnt think you knew my name.

His gaze came away from the view, the boat dock, the sweep of lawn, smiling with that air of familiarity, confidence, she remembered from the first time they met.

He said, Mary, a woman of your beauty begs to be identified.

She said, Rafi, knock it off. Get to the point.

Im sorry, he said. What?

Who told you my name?

Youre well known, Mary. The wife of a man who was once very important in our government. You come to Casa de Campo Youre the buddy of a man who was a celebrity in Santo Domingo for a day or two, looking for his lost love. He stopped. I cant imagine that, why he would look for someone else if he has you.

Were friends, Mary said.

Yes, I notice. Very good friends.

Have you called him since you got here?

Who, Moran? This brought a new depth of enjoyment. As his smile began to fade a trace still lingered. You just left him, Mary, at, I believe, the Holiday Inn? Didnt he tell you Im staying with him?

Mary had stopped smiling some time ago, seeing it coming. And now here we are, she thought. She was ready and said very quietly, How much are you asking for?

Rafi seemed hurt, furrowing his brow. He said, Como? How much do I ask for? Overdoing it. Then let his expression relax, though still with sensitivity, misunderstood. You dont believe I intend to make something of this, do you? Your affair with Moran? I think its beautiful. I admire both of you very much.

Past Rafis shoulder, far out in the bay, a powerboat was trailing a curving wake, coming in toward shore. Mary saw it and recognized El Jefe, the de Boya sixty-foot yacht, vivid white against the darkening ocean.

She said, why did you bring the girl?

Loret? Hes looking for her sister. Innocence now in Rafis tone. But shes dead. Gave her life in a cause, and now poor Loret has no one to take care of her. I tell this to Moran because of his feeling, if he wants to give something to Loret for her future, her education, something to help the poor girl. Its up to him.

And how, Mary said, do you put the bite on me?

That sounds good, Rafi said, whatever it means. Id give you some nice bites, Mary, if we were more than friends. But-he gestured, a sad smile now-what can I do? Im not your lover. I can only approach you as a friend. Ah, but there, perhaps I can suggest a very profitable business investment in Santo Domingo that might interest you. Something you can come down to see from time to time. I show you and we watch it grow. Maybe something like that?

How much? Mary said.

The investment? I dont know, I have to show you the papers.

Would you like to show my husband?

He has his investment, uh? Rafi said. You have yours. Whats the matter with that? I wouldnt wish to take his valuable time, a man like your husband

Hes coming, Mary said, nodding toward the bay. Tell him about it.

Rafi turned to see the prow of the boat approaching the dock, a heavy rumbling sound reaching them.

I think you misunderstand me.

They could hear the boats exhaust clearly as the white hull crept toward its berth and a deckhand jumped to the dock with a line.

Really, Mary said, tell him about your profitable investments.

Well, Id be happy to meet your husband, of course

You dont sound too sure.

General de Boya. Every Dominican knows of him. It would be an honor.

Hes not a general anymore, Mary said. Hes Im not sure what he is. Ask him.

Rafi had lost some of his confidence. He seemed apprehensive, watching de Boya, in a business suit, coming across the lawn toward them, and looked at Mary quickly.

I dont want to take his time.

He wont let you take his time if he doesnt want you to, Mary said. Tell him whatever you like.

She glanced at Rafi preparing himself, squaring his shoulders; then waited until her husband was mounting the steps to the sundeck. He was wearing sunglasses, his grim expression in place.

Andres, Id like you to meet a fellow Dominican, Rafael Amado. And told him they had met at the Santo Domingo Country Club on her last trip. Rafis in investments. You two should get along fine.

She watched Rafi step forward and bow, eyes lowered, as he took her husbands hand, a commoner in the presence of royalty. But it was her husbands reaction that surprised her more. His posture seemed to be not the stiff formality he reserved for strangers, meeting someone for the first time, but the more guarded sense of suspicion he usually reserved for her. She wondered if he knew who Rafi was. They spoke in Spanish for less than a minute while Andres eyed him and Rafi looked off nodding, trying to maintain a thoughtful, interested expression; until Andres gave him a stiff nod for a bow, looked at Mary briefly as he excused himself and walked into the house.

Rafi now seemed dazed. He said, Ive met General Andres de Boya.

And he didnt take you out and shoot you, Mary said. He must like you.

It was as though Rafi took her seriously, his expression numb, a glazed look in his eyes.

When I was little, he said, then paused. Perhaps I shouldnt tell you. It might seem offensive to you.

Mary shrugged. No more than anything else youve said.

Now he seemed wounded. Have I hurt you?

When you were a little boy, Mary began. What?

My mother would threaten me, Rafi said, as many of the mothers of small children did at that time. She would say to me, If youre not good, General de Boya will come and take you and well never see you again. Rafi gestured with a weak smile. Thats all. As you introduced me to him I thought of it again.

Well, it sounds like something to keep in mind, Mary said, no matter how old you are.

There had been a list of POOL RULES on a board nailed to a palm tree, put there by the previous owner. No running No splashing No swimming without showering first No glass objects allowed on the patio A list of negatives Moran never cared for. So when the palm tree died and was removed the POOL RULES went with it. He did set an example, though, and when he switched after two cans of beer to scotch he poured it into a plastic party glass with ice and took his drink outside to sit in his deck chair and wait for Rafi.

It was dark now though still early evening. He had not seen Rafi all day. When he saw him again it would be for the last time. He did not have to prepare a speech; what he had to say was simple enough. Get your ass out of here.

He told himself he shouldnt let things get out of hand like this. He should never wait for things to happen and then have to clean up after. Maybe he should have put the pool rules up somewhere. But then he thought, no. Even if you said No glass objects people could still bring a glass out and break it; they could still cut themselves and sue you. No, rules were cold, unrelenting. You had to handle people individually, take each situation as it came. Just dont let them talk you into something you dont want to do.

He wished Mary were here looking at the ocean with him. Looking at the ocean at night made him think of himself in a quieting way. He felt the breeze with a smell of salt in it and thought of turning on some music. Start with Placido Domingo doing love ballads. She said he was more romantic than shed expected and he told her he felt like he was seventeen. He did. Thinking about her now mellowed him. Start with Placido and work up to J. Geils.

So that when Rafi showed up, coming across the patio from the office, Moran waved-Hey, I want to talk to you-and walked toward the swimming pool where Rafi stood in the green glow of underwater lights.

Whatd you lay on Mary?

Im sorry Rafi began, not understanding.

I am too, Moran said. Never buy a guy dinner until he proves you shot him. Rafi still looked puzzled-real or acting, it didnt matter to Moran. You werent on that roof with Luci anymoren that little broads her sister. So lets cut the shit. I dont care if you own up or not, long as youre out of here tomorrow.

Rafi seemed hurt now. George, what is it? Why you saying this?

You can try it out on me, Moran said, it was kind of interesting, see how you handle it. But you go for my friend, the funs over. Take your little hooker and get out of here.

Rafi said, My hooker?

Your puta. Shes over there waiting for you. Moran nodded toward Number One, at the figure of the girl in the doorway, and it took him by surprise; the classic pose, the girls body outlined in a soft glow of lamplight, inviting without making a move.

Rafi said, George, you heard her story I swear to you on my mothers honor

You better keep your mother out of it, Moran said, unless you want to hear some street Spanish about where you came from. You comprende, pendejo? Lets keep it simple. You brought the girl along so Ill feel sorry for her and you can make a pitch. Something for poor little Loret, living down there in the slums. And if I get your meaning you dont have to hold anything over my head. Then what? You parade her in front of Mary? You knew who she was when we were down there, didnt you? Mustve lit your eyes up. Whatd you say to her today?

Rafi took his time. George, part of what you say is true. Yes, I recognize Mary. But I dont say anything because I dont want to surprise you and you think the wrong thing.

Bullshit, you had to come up with a scheme. You followed me today, you followed her You tell her how much you want or you havent made up your mind yet?

George, what do you think I want?

Not what, how much. I know what you want. Christ, the way you do it, you might as well wear a sign. Youre a fucking lizard, Rafi, thats all I can say.

Rafi gave himself a little time. He sighed. You make it sound ugly, George, Im surprise. A man like you, run this kind of place. Rafi looked about critically in the glow of the swimming pool, unimpressed. You want me to believe its very swank. But soon as I come here I realize something, George. You see a good thing you go for it. You accuse me, but, George-with a smile to show patience and understanding-Im not the one fucking General de Boyas wife, you are.

Moran hammered him with a straight left, aiming for the grin that vanished behind his fist and Rafi stumbled back, over the side of the pool. He landed on his back, smacking the water hard, went under and came up waving his arms, gasping. Moran stood on the tile edge watching him. Rafi was only a few feet away but struggling, fighting the water, still gasping for breath. Shit, Moran thought.

He yelled at him, Take it easy! Hey-put your head back, you wont sink.

Rafi was trying to scream something in Spanish, taking in water, gagging, going under again.

Relax, will you. Take it easy.

Moran glanced around to see the girl, Loret, next to him now, calmly watching Rafi in the water.

Cant he swim?

I dont know, the girl said. It dont look like it.

Shit, Moran said. He pulled his untied sneakers off, hesitated, took his wallet out of his pocket, dropped it behind him and jumped in the pool.

As soon as they got him in the living room of the apartment Rafi slumped into the sofa, his Dominican shirt sticking to him, transparent. Moran yelled at him, Not on the couch! and grabbed an arm to pull him up. Christ, the guy was making a survivor scene out of it, saved from a watery grave, the girl bringing a blanket shed ripped from the bed. Moran held her off and pushed Rafi toward the bathroom. Get in there. You ruin my furniture Ill throw you back.

Nolen was standing in the doorway holding the screen.

What happened?

Asshole fell in the swimming pool.

He all right?

Who gives a shit, Moran said. He started out, then looked around at Loret. Give me my wallet.

She hesitated, then reached behind her and brought it out of the waist of her jeans. I holding it for you.

Thanks, Moran said. Now pack. Youre going home tomorrow. He took his wallet and left.

Nolen watched Moran cross to his bungalow and go inside. For several moments Nolen stood with his hands shoved into his back pockets, looking about idly.

Moran hit him then save his life, Loret said.

Funny guy, Nolen said. He came in now, moved through the living room to the kitchenette, snooping, looking around. What do you and Rafael drink for fun, anything?

They some wine in the refrigerador.

Ill be back, Nolen said.

Loret began in Spanish and Nolen had to tell her to talk English or shut up. He listened to see if she had anything of value for him, but all she was doing was bitching at Rafi.

I dont know why I come here with you. I learn what you tell me, I say it perfect.

You dont say it perfect, Rafi said.

I say it so good I begin to cry myself and he touch me. You see that. He reach over and touch me. I did it perfect. But you-you say something he push you in the piscina. She looked at Nolen sitting forward on the sofa, pouring himself a drink from the bottle of Scotch hed placed close by on the coffee table. You know how much money I didnt make since I start being with him? Ill tell you-

Rafi said something to her in Spanish that shut her up.

Its okay, Nolen said. How much?

Two hundred dollar a night-all those nights I have to spend listening to him, it come to dos mil, two thousand dollar I dont make, Loret said. Maybe more than that.

Nolen was getting up, hands on his thighs like an old man. Youre a cute little girl, he said to Loret, taking her by the arm, leading her to the bedroom, but you talk too much. Stay in there and be quiet. He pushed her into the room and closed the door. When she pounded on it and began yelling in Spanish Nolen opened the door a few inches and pointed a finger inside. I said be quiet, you hear? Or Ill have to get rough with you and I dont want to do that. He closed the door again and went back to the sofa. Easing himself down he said to Rafi, I recited that line every night for two and a half months. Be quiet now, you hear? Or Ill have to get rough with you Oh my, where were we? Thats right, we havent started yet, have we?

Rafi sat quietly in a straight chair turned away from the desk. He seemed drained of energy after his ordeal, his hair still wet, flat to his skull, his body wrapped in the comfort of a brown velour robe.

First, you didnt do it right, Nolen said. You come rolling in like a medicine show, got your little helper with you. Fine, except every guy to hers a trick. You see it in her eyes, she cant wait to get your fly open. Second, you picked the wrong guy. I dont mean because he doesnt have any money, Im not talking about money. And I dont mean hes the wrong guy in that you ever leaned on him seriously, spoke right out and tried to blackmail him, hed beat the shit out of you. Thats nothing. Youve been cut, you know what I mean. You get over it. No, Im talking about you picked the wrong guy from the standpoint you didnt pick the right one. Are you following me?

Rafi was moving his tongue over his teeth or touching his mouth gently with the tips of his fingers.

You paying attention?

Rafi didnt say. He seemed to nod.

Im not telling you this, Nolen said, because I think you need counseling. Youre no more fucked up than the rest of the pimps trying to get by, but youre not a pimp.

I was never a pimp, Rafi said, as indignant as he could sound with a sore mouth.

I mean you dont have the right stuff to be a good pimp, Nolen said. Youre not only about thirty years behind in your style youre playing the wrong part. You come on like a young Fernando Lamas when another type entirely, today, is selling tickets.

Rafi said, What tickets?

Just listen, Nolen said. Whats going down in the Caribbean, in Central America, El Salvador now, ever since Cuba? Revolutions, man. Theyve always been big down there, but now theyre getting more notice because they seem closer to home. Only an hour, two hours across the friendly skies and it scares the shit out of people. Its going on right in Miami with the Cubans, the Haitians, Colombians that come to visit-you got dope and international politics all mixed up with terrorists that use pipe bombs and automatic weapons, man, its real and its right here. You understand what Im saying to you? You want to score today you got to get into the action thats going down, you got to spread a little terror.

Rafi was listening. He said, Yes? How do I do that?

Im glad you asked, Nolen said. Youve got the background, the hot blood, all that shit. I think with a little direction, a good slogan, you could make a pretty fair revolutionary. Viva Libertad-you know, get excited.

Rafi frowned. You want to start a revolution?

No, you do, Nolen said. You want to make it look like youre part of a wild-ass revolutionary movement. Youre an ace terrorist come here to do a job. Youre a fanatic, man, you cant wait to blow somebody away. But, you want him to know it first. You want to make him believe hes got this fucking movement coming down on him, not just some muggers-you know what I mean?-some real gung-hoers, man, fire-eaters.

Rafi said, What guy?

I thought so, Nolen said. Right there in front of you and you dont even see it. You go after Moran and his girlfriend what about the girl-friends husband? Hes the guy with the prize, not Moran. Morans one of the good guys.

Wait, Rafi said. You have to explain this to me.

In time, Nolen said. First we got to think of a good slogan, something to get the guy squirming-he doesnt know whats going on, where its coming from, but it looks like some pretty heavy shit coming down.

An eslogan?

Not a slogan-how do you say it?-a grito de combate. A battle cry.

Yes? To say what?

How about Muerte a de Boya? Nolen said. Thats got a pretty nice ring.

Rafi had stopped touching his sore mouth. He stared at Nolen, interested but uncertain, trying to put it together in his mind.

You asking me to kill?

Would you like to?

Rafi didnt answer.

I want you to think about it, Nolen said, get a feel for the part. Youre Rafi Amado, the man from Santo Domingo, a no-shit revolutionary full of zeal, revenge, whatever revolutionaries are full of. You understand what I mean? Get in the mood and well talk about it some more.


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