DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 10A
October 12, 2011
Derek found a corner of the apartment building’s roof with his back to the rising sun and gave the city some time to quiet down. Too keyed up and paranoid to sleep, his senses became hyper-attuned to the sounds and vibrations of the building beneath him – doors slamming, water running through pipes, people walking around, the smell of coffee and food wafting out windows. Below, the city woke up, traffic picked up, people called out to each other, chattered in rapid-fire Spanish. Sirens wailed, music played.
Finally he felt that the building had quieted down. He rolled to his feet and slipped into the building. Listening at the nearest door, he thought he heard voices inside.
He moved on to the next door. Hearing nothing, he knocked at the door. Nobody answered.
Checking the doorknob, Derek noted it was locked. Pulling out his utility tool, he went to work on the lock. It was a cheap lock and he had the door open in seconds.
It was a small apartment, a tiny kitchen and living area, a bathroom and two small bedrooms. Based on the number of beds, probably three kids used the bedroom. He used the bathroom then went into the refrigerator. Derek opened the refrigerator, found several bottles of TuCola, a Coke-like product, opened it and drank. Caffeine flooded his body. Several mangos and bananas rested in a glass bowl. He had one of each.
He sat for a while and considered his options. This, he realized, was getting him nowhere. For the last several hours he had been sitting around considering his options. They were few and far between. “Somewhere,” he muttered, “between shit out of luck and hell-and-gone.”
Derek also felt his luck was getting used up.
Looking around the apartment, he threw some money on the counter in an anonymous thank-you, and slipped out the door.
He walked down the stairs. The apartment was mostly quiet. He could hear the occasional TV behind a closed door, or a baby crying, but otherwise all was silent. Out on the street he took a meandering course around the city. He had no intention of returning to where he had left the Vespa. For the time being, he wanted to stay clear of the safe house.
He blended in moderately well. Havana had plenty of tourists from Europe and South and Central America. He visited a clothing store and bought a pair of jeans that he put on in the restroom of a bar, tossing his torn black jeans in a trash can. Derek bought up a T-shirt from a street vendor, then bought a baseball hat for the Marianao’s with a golden tiger on the front. From another vendor he bought a pair of dark sunglasses.
With the shirt untucked and acquiring the kind of rolling gate so many Cuban males seemed to use, he hoped he would blend in for the rest of the day. He wandered. Sat on benches. Stopped in a bar where he could linger over a beer for several hours.
Leaving there, he drifted, listened to some street musicians playing guitar and trumpet. He threw a few coins in their open cases and thought that under other circumstances he might like Cuba. He liked the weather, although today it was cloudy and cooler. He liked the food. He liked the girls with their dark hair, olive skin, big black eyes and their flirtatious ways. He liked the music.
Finally, he walked toward the safe house. It had been a long day. Dusk was coming on quickly. He waited a block away, leaning against the trunk of a eucalyptus, watching the house. Finally, fairly confident that nothing was going on, he walked to the house and let himself into the garage. The first thing he did was turn on the computer.
No new message had been left for him.
He roamed the house, restless. Peeking out the front window through the closed drapes, his heart thrashed in his chest. From the building across the street Juan Osorio stepped out of the front door. He raised a finger and spun it in the air.
From around the corners of the building and the door behind him burst a dozen uniformed men with AK-47s. They sprinted toward the safe house.