Part 6 – Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Marines stood guard next to a single tank guarded the south gate. Their rifles were at the ready. I slowed down as I neared and saw a man in khakis and an untucked oxford shirt yell something to them and they lowered their weapons. I idled up slower and the man in civilian clothes walked out to meet me.

“Paul, I was hoping you’d make it,” he said.

“I made it,” I said.

We walked past the tank and the Marines and through the airport gate.

“The rebels have given us until zero six hundred to be gone,” he said. “We’re just waiting on stragglers like you.”

He stopped and turned to me.

“I thought you’d bring Guillermo’s daughter.”

“I did. She didn’t make it.”

“Neither did Guillermo. Three days ago. Outside the ministry building. His daughter?”

“Ten minutes ago. By the east gate.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah, damn.”

“You ok?”

“I don’t know yet. This whole thing was pear shaped from the moment we got here.”

“It was pear-shaped long before we got here, my friend.”

We walked to a civilian airplane. The steps were lowered and the pilot was already in his seat. The man reaching into a file, pulled out an envelope and slapped it into my chest. I took it.

“Your new documentation, per our agreement. You came through for us. We came through for you.”

I opened the envelope. It contained new identification papers, a passport, credit cards and several bundles of American dollars. I pulled out my passport and looked at my new name – Prescott Carmichael.

Part 5 – Lovers in a Dangerous Time

A military transport truck stood by the east gate of the airport. Uniformed men lounged in the shade of the truck. I slowed the bike down to see if they were military or rebels. They looked at us to see if were was government or revolutionary. A hundred yards off, it was hard for any of us to tell. However, my complexion gave me away and I saw two of them come to their feet and lift up rifles.

“Hold tight,” I told her and felt her arms tighten.

I pointed the bike down an access road. I heard two shots far and distant over the buzzing of the Kawasaki. Wasted ammo, I thought. I glanced back and the men weren’t following. I sped on toward the south gate.

A Chinook lifted off from a far corner of the airport. It flew toward the north then banked west and flew toward the sea and a waiting carrier. I prayed it wasn’t the last flight out.

Her grip loosen and I caught her as she fell off the right side of the bike. I brought it to a stop by the side of the road and helped her to the ground.

“I won’t make it,” she said.

“Shut up,” I told her. I let the bike fall down and carried her to a tree. I laid her down in the shade. I turned her over gently. There was a wound in her lower back. A damned lucky shot..

“I won’t make it, right?”

“No. You’re not going to make it.”

“Bésame,” she said. I kissed her.

She stayed with me for several long moments, then slipped away.

I felt no rage, no anger. There was only loss.

Part 4 – Lovers in a Dangerous Time

She asked, “Why are you stopping?”

“Look,” I said.

She got off the motorcycle and stood beside me.

The military or the rebels had tried to blow the airport bridge. Two of its four lanes had fallen the seventy feet to the river below. The third teetered, broken at a forty-five degree angle. A wind would send it falling soon enough. The fourth lane looked to have held through the blast.

“We’ll walk across,” I told her. “First me with the motorcycle, then you.”

“No.”

“It will be safer.”

“I love you,” she said to me for the first time.

“I love you, also,” I said to anyone for the first time.

She took my hand from the grip of the bike, turned it up and kissed my palm.

“Then it’s settled,” she said. “We’ll cross together.”

The remaining lane was eight feet wide. The bridge spanned twenty-five yards. To our left would be the girders of the bridge. To our right would be the long drop into the river below.

“Get on,” I told her. She did so and wrapped her arms and legs tight again around my body.

I put as much speed into the bike as I could. We were either going to get across quickly or we were going to die quickly.

We did not die.

The bike hit a hard transition where the far end of the bridge met the road. I kept it upright and pulled the bike to a stop and looked back.

“Are we still in love?” I asked her.

“Yes, we’re still in love.”

Part 3: Lovers in a Dangerous Time

She touched my arm then pointed to the right. I pulled the Kawasaki to the side of the street and let it idle. We were in a residential area high above the city. All the homes stood empty. The women and children were sent away after the incident of May 1. The men left when rebels were spotted near the city. The finely trimmed lawns and heavily structured landscaping had already become shaggy and overgrown. The jungle looked ready to reclaim it.

“Look,” she said. She was pointing down into the city.

The central plaza overflowed with people. The crowd seemed to surging back and forth across the square. The wind carried the chanting and shouting to us. To the west, a column of black smoke rose up from the east wing of the presidential palace. I looked to the harbor. I’m told before my time that banana boats and fishing vessels littered it. In my time, it was clogged with oil tankers and cruise ships. Recently, those were replaced but U.S. and British naval vessels. Now, it was empty. Any seaworthy vessel had been used for escape over the last month. It had become the large lagoon it once was.

Gun fire cracked nearby.

“We need to go,” I said.

“This was my city. My home.”

I said nothing.

“Go,” she said.

I drove down the mountain and avoided the Centro district. I biked through the once busy financial sector. It stood empty. The banks had been nationalized and the people left along with the cash. Economic collapse followed. All that remained were empty, gleaming, modern buildings built at the height of wealth and promise. I saw our reflection ripple against their tall glass facades. I did not recognize myself in torn pants and dirty shirt. She had untied her black hair and danced in the wind obscuring her face.

Part 2: Lovers in a Dangerous Time

She asked, “Where are we going?”

I told her the airport.

“That’s eight kilometers away?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Are we walking?”

“No. Follow me.”

I opened the room door and made sure the hallway was clear. It was. We walked to the south stairwell. As we passed the final room, a door pulled open. Enrique, the concierge, looked wide eyed at us both. He was naked except for a towel around his waist. I looked over his shoulder and saw Pablo the hotel manager lying naked on the bed. I looked back to the cigarette dangling from Enrique’s lips.

“Can she have one of those?” I asked.

Enrique looked back to Pablo. Pablo shrugged. He reached to the bedside table and tossed Enrique a package of American cigarettes. Enrique fished two out of the box and handed them to me. I gave them both to her. She put one in her mouth and held it there unlit. The other disappeared down her shirt.

“Gracias,” I said.

“De nada,” he said. “And be careful out there.”

I nodded and pushed the door into the stairway. I quick timed it to the basement. She kept pace. Behind a Mardi Gras head and under a painter’s canvas was the Kawasaki motorcycle I stored earlier in the summer when things looked to be going pear shaped. The spare can of petrol was still beside it. I tied the can to the bike’s front fender.

“Can you hold the door?”

She did and I pushed the bike out the door and up the stairs to street level. I straddled it to make sure it would fire. It did.

“This has been here all along?”

“Yes.”

“And you didn’t leave?”

“No.”

“¿Por que?”

“Because the job wasn’t done. And I wasn’t sure you’d leave with me. Get on.”

She climbed on wrapping her brown legs around my waist and crossing them with her heels planted in my lap.

“Wait,” she said.

I heard a match strike and caught the whiff of American tobacco.

“You good?” I asked.

“I’m good,” she said.

I pushed off and prayed we would make the airport in time and alive. She held me tight.

Part 1: Lovers in a Dangerous Time

We were lovers in a dangerous time.

There was disease in the water, rebels in the hills and a madman in the Presidential Palace. I drank gin and stale tonic. She drank whiskey spiked with Fernet-Branca.
We barricaded ourselves in a fourth floor hotel room behind pillows and under blankets. We passed the time by making love and not speaking.

This morning the mortars in the hills landed closer and the gunfire in the street grew more frequent. At dawn, she’d smoked the last cigarette in the hotel. Now, she was growing nervous.

“Is this the end?” she asked.

“Our end?”

“The end?”

“Maybe.”

“I just realized how young I am.”

“Yes. We’re both young.”

“You’re not nearly as young as me.”

“True.”

“Am I too young?”

“In another time, you would be too young.”

“This place ages people.”

“Yes, this place ages people.”

“Is this the end?”

I went to the window. A Toyota bounced down the street. The back was piled with men holding Kalashnikovs, AKs and ARs. They stopped in front of the bodega I bought my tamales from. One of the men climbed from the bed of the pick-up, threw something, jumped back into the truck and it sped away. A few moments later the bodega exploded.

There was no need for that. Luis, the owner, and Pilar, his wife, and his three children left last week with the Marines.

“Is this the end?” she repeated.

“Yes, this is the end. Get dressed. We’re going.”

My new novel Daddy Issues is out May 1. www.facebook.com/writerhoward

My new novel Daddy Issues is out May 1. Like www.facebook.com/writerhoward for updates, news and more about the novel.

“Caution: Daddy Issues is a real punch in the gut.” – Kia Heavey, author of Night Machines

Wagner Siebenthaler is doing well for himself. He is the blue-collar success story. He has a thriving business, a nice house, a pretty wife, a growing daughter and a girlfriend on the side. He’s living the good life.

That all changes when his daughter is sexually assaulted. Now all Wagner wants is revenge. That obsession for vengeance, however, pries open a small crack in his psyche. What comes out is a tsunami of pain and violence that crashes across the Kentucky landscape carrying away the lives of anyone close to him.

In this brutally honest novel, Howard McEwen explores the meaning of Manhood and Fatherhood in a modern America that marginalizes the virtues of men and fathers.

 

Free: My novel Wrath-the life and assassination of a United States Governor

It’s free today and tomorrow. It’s here.

Take a read. What’s it cost you?

From the Amazon description:

He was a man who needed killing. He destroyed lives, usurped power, undermined democracy and was a murderer. He was William Goebel, the 34th Governor of Kentucky, a man unafraid to turn the Bluegrass blood red in his pursuit of power.

Goebel is still the only governor in United States history to be put in the ground by an assassin’s bullet.

Wrath – the life and assassination of a United States Governor is the tale of the people and forces that shaped William Goebel into a autocrat, Kentucky into an armed state and the man who delivered the final act of retribution from the barrel of a musket.

New novelette Haunt – A Prescott Carmichael Jaunt is out!

And it’s free until tax day. Take a read.

From the description:
“It’s an easy assignment. Jake Gibb is sent by his boss Prescott Carmichael to babysit a scared client who is claiming to be haunted by ghosts. Instead of a bored fall evening chit-chatting with a client, Jake Gibb is caught in a family squabble that will shake his faith in non-belief.”