Tiny Eden, Volume: 3, "Marco's Story" by Guenter Heyes by Guenter Heyes - Read Online

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Tiny Eden, Volume - Guenter Heyes

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impossible.

Chapter 1 - Coming Home

The boy called out the hustling words to gain some money. He hustles for a few pesos worth of shoe-shining. Determined he hustles, with not as much of a hint in his comportment to feel offended by the many rejections.

The hot Caribbean sun feels strong on me, for I have not felt it in a good ten years. The voice of the boy makes the hot sun burn more on my skin, his voice recalls my memory. His voice and action recalls my life and pain. It recalls this very moment when I was in his shoes, or as we say, sandals, when I hustled for the same handful of pesos as he did.

It was a ferociously hot Caribbean late August day when I did my last customer, a day that ended my memory of what the Caribbean are all about.

I order another rum and finally motion him to me to have his few pesos worth of work. I feel awkward to extend my foot to have the shoes shined, since all I ever did was shine them for others.

Likos, my best friend, glances at me and seems not to understand the custom of the land nor the reason for such menial work. In Likos' language I explain. The boy looks up as he hears the strange language. It must sound so melodic to him as much as it had sounded so melodic to me long time ago, and still I cherish this sound.

The boy is about 10, about the age I was back then on my last day on the streets of my town. My town is just a few miles away.

His skin is darker than mine, his hair more curly, and his is the round face with the smile of a boy who could never imagine danger. His attire is naturally the sympathy evoking ripped T-shirt and dirty shorts with ripped sandals; if he would be dressed well, his business would suffer.

He might be a real street kid or he might be shining shoes for pocket money. Whatever the cause, he has to appear poor.

I watch him. His hair is tousled, but his teeth are clean and well taken care of. His eyes have a glimmer of happiness that indicates he has not suffered hunger too much. Maybe, I think, he is just a boy out to get some spending money.

Likos enquires again as to what time our contact is to show up here. I tell that he shall not worry, take or leave a few hours from the agreed upon hour. Likos frowns, he hates being late.

Again the boy looks surprised as he hears us talk. This is a beach town with plenty of tourists and he sure had heard many languages.

He quizzically looks at me and at Likos. Likos smiles and tousles his hair. Soon he has finished his job and receives his well-earned pay. Likos throws in a Coke to help him cool off in this heat. The CD - [Communication Device - our term for something like a cell phone] - rings and the contact tells us to meet him at a restaurant across town. He is waiting and has a table reserved. He is absolute unable to make it to our originally agreed on meeting place.

We get up and head for our car, a Mercedes M-class. The boy watches us and is seemingly impressed as to the wealth we seem to have acquired in our young age. He asks if we will be here tomorrow and then he will wash the car too, if we so desire. We tell him that we might be here tomorrow, not sure but very likely.

I open the door; the boy waves a final good bye. Likos insist I drive, since he has no idea or the skills to negotiate this traffic.

Shoe shine boys! So this is what you did too before coming to us, Marco?

Pretty much the same town too. My town is just a few miles west from here.

Strange feeling to back home?

I would not call it home any longer.

Will you meet your parents and siblings?

I am thinking, Likos.

Would you even know how to contact them, Marco?

Don't know. It was so long ago. I hardly remember them, nor my brothers and sisters. I sure think they believe I am dead. I would not want my mother to keel over after she decided 10 years ago I must be dead and now see me alive.

You will have to consider that you will be here for many months. This is your Caribbean assignment.

Yes this is the entire problem, the longer I will be here, the more chances are I will find them, and others.

I feel pity for these kids.

Likos, this is the life here, not much you can do. Most of them are not orphans as like in the known cities like Rio, or Calcutta. Also, though they appear to be in poverty, they are pretty well off by their own standards.

We drive on, while Likos takes in the sights. He says little and sooner than I thought, we reach the restaurant our client has told us. We pull in the parking lot and enter soon after.

A waiter brings us to the table, where we meet our contact. A gentleman of about 40, quite a solid but not fat frame. A soft smile is on his face and besides him in the other chair is a boy. I judge him to be about 12 in age. The boy gets up and shakes our hands, smiling with the insecurity so many children display when introduced to strangers.

After a few minutes of small talk, Jason, the contact gets down to business.

I hear your Government wants to import some 50 tonnes of coffee per year?

This is correct, but with a clause.

I heard about the clause, no middleman, direct payment to the campensino and owners. How do we manage transportation?

Simple, we have a regular air service to here, Jason.

Coffee shipped in planes? How much will that cost?

This is our problem, Jason, how we ship it. What we need from you is the plantation that can give us the 50 tonnes.

You have unorthodox restrictions on this deal, Senior Mendez. Where would one get a plantation that would actually pay its campensino the amount you suggest?

The boy cocks his head in surprise for a moment, but he remains silent. He looks at me and at Jason alternately.

My name is Marco, leave the Senior and family name out.

Marco, where would we get a plantation that would do so?

Our contacts have informed us, that there is a plantation for sale in the Blanco region. The output is well over the 50 tonnes per year, that is what we want.

Oh that plantation! Likos, this plantation is bad land. It has changed owners often. Even the campensino aren’t too eager to work there.

What plantation do you have in mind, Jason?

Likos gave him a look that indicated he was about to nail Jason into the corner. Likos then drew his fingers across his mouth in the proverbial thinker pose. He glanced at the boy. Jason's eyes smiled for a moment.

May I ask who referred you the Blanco Plantation?

Just a lil' bird chirping, Jason. - Likos replied.

Then I guess it was Senor Lopez, the real estate tycoon.

Possible.

"Lopez sold this plantation five times in eight years. Each sale and new ownership disrupted the production beyond the point where even the most brow beaten and boot licking campensino could no longer take it.

"How would you be able to buy it at the price Lopez is asking, and get workers who will have the faith in you that this will not be just another bad year?

What Lopez did not tell you, is that he has the water rights. He is making a bundle selling this plantation over and over again to unsuspecting foreigners and then cutting them the water. That then forces them to sell below price and Lopez then resells it again.

OK, Jason, do you have something for us?

He smiles at the boy and twitches with his eyes, before he whispers:

I have a plantation, right near by in Sanchez. I produce a good 200 tonnes per year.

Nearby? Coffee at sea level is of no good quality, Jason. Your records show you sell to the main market that mixes the low grade with the good grade for general super market consumption.

Nearby does not mean it grows 100 yards from the beach. I am in a nice valley, some 50 miles from here. I sell to the main market because, as you know, 200 tonnes is not enough for special marketing.

Likos looked at me, then off hand he asked.:

Jason, is this your son?

No, I have no kids. Well yes I had once a family, messy divorce, the wife took all, including the children and brain washed them into hating me. No, this is Alfonso, a child I take care of.

Take care of as in how?

Like paying for schooling, helping him and his parents make ends meet. That kind of taking care.

What do his parents do?

They are campensino, as so many are.

Do they work on your plantation?

Yes Marco, now they do. When we met, they were pretty down and out people.

Like how?

Just simply bad luck, illness, unemployed and so on.

How did you meet each other?

He shined my shoes and he was poor. I took care of him.

Likos throws me a smile and then returns to business.

Now you tell me, we shall use coffee from your plantation. Yet our records show, that you were once also the owner of Blanco. Do I detect some eagerness from your part to get even with Lopez?

Jason gives us a look like we had caught him stealing cookies. He squirms a bit and then talks with slow words.

"I was thinking. If we can invest into the Blanco Plantation, and buy the water rights as well, Lopez would move and find some other source of income. Then the Blanco Plantation will make a profit.

See the campensino don't want to work there because, as dumb and uneducated they might be, they do know how much water is needed for proper growing. They can't tell you this in gallons and litres, but they just know that the plantation is not getting the water it needs. You can't take the plantation without taking also the land with the springs. For this Lopez is going to charge you an obscene price. To be honest, Likos, I do not have that amount of money to buy out Lopez completely. But together we could do it.

Likos stares into nowhere and thinks. I see Jason stir as like stung by a bee and he stares at us with disbelief.

How, did you know about my business transactions, failures and successes?

Simply by being good snoops who do their homework, Jason.

This is classified information, you must be a hacker to access all this.

You got it, Jason, we are hackers.

So you never did then talk with Lopez, did you?

No. We just snooped on his hard drive, found your name and failure on that plantation. Found out you did have a plantation on your own and doing not too bad. Figured you might want to try to get even. Oh and you were not exactly honest about Alfonso and that school. You did not mention that you have a school on your own grounds, paid entirely from your own pockets.

Likos beamed a smile at Jason and then just broke out into a happy laughter. He had no idea if he should be crying or laughing, should he be mad or happy. Jason was now confused beyond repair. Alfonso looked at his mentor with concern.

I am dealing with the country you claim to represent, not with some kind of Mafia, am I?

No Jason, calm down. We are not Mafia or something like that. Jason, due to the nature of our political situation, we have to be very careful as to whom we make contact with. We have to snoop, before we act. Sorry when it shocked you, but we did choose you for a reason. That school on your plantation is exactly the reason why we chose you. If you want the Blanco Plantation and the water grounds, we will back you up. We might even be able to make Senor Lopez and offer he will not be able to refuse. We found a few things that might make him sell below price, let us say a lot below price.

Likos again smiled and laughed out loud. He bent forward and tousled Alfonso's hair in a friendly gesture. Jason's concerned face began to lighten up. He looked at his protege and saw the same smile with a seemingly less concerned face than before.

Likos, you just scared me for some very long minutes.

He called the waiter and ordered more rum for all of us.

When do you want to see my plantation?

In a few days, Jason. Tomorrow we will be looking at a house near the beach. We wish to buy it and have it furnished as soon as possible. We do not trust hotels. So the house is priority.

My dad is a good carpenter. Alfonso said to me in Spanish.

Is he really? Well maybe we need some carpenter work done, we will let you know, Alfonso.

Alfonso beamed a triumphant smile at Jason as if to say:

'See, I can sell as well and get things done'...

Jason gave him a brief hug, just as the rum arrived, with a glass of juice for the boy.

Which house will you be looking at?

Classified for now, Jason.

We small talked for some time and then with meals finished, new friendships cemented, we left. Jason came out with us to the parking lot. He headed for his car, a Toyota 4x4. When he saw our car he really looked surprised.

You both seem very young and successful. Driving a car like this is a sign of tremendous achievements.

Thank you Jason. We did work hard for what we have now.

Where are you heading to now?

Hotel, we still have lots of things to do.

We parted and I drove back to the hotel.

What do you think, Marco? Could he have planted that info on purpose?

I doubt it, Likos. Too many different people are getting screwed by Lopez as to have them all being a set up to get to us.

I like Jason, I feel good with him.

Me too, Likos.

Next day we finalized the house transaction. The mansion we had bought was quite large, well kept and well secured. At noon already the engineers arrived and replaced all destructive material with our nation's products. What was left in the evening from the original house was the furniture.

The glass was bullet proof, burglar bars had been replaced, a new security system and our communication links had been set up. We were ready to hire local people for the up keep.

The next day we called Jason and agreed on the day after to meet him at his plantation. Likos and I spent the morning snooping on the Internet, hacking again into the Lopez‘s files.

Marco, please look at this! Likos exclaimed.

I rolled my chair over to his terminal and looked at files.

Yes these are the files of the people he screwed.

I know. But look at the mentality of the people he screwed.

What do you mean?

All of them are non - Christians, Jason is an Atheist, the others are Jewish, Muslim or other religions. Is this not odd?

Kind of.

Look at his donations! Most are to Opus Dei.

This here is a very Catholic country, Likos.

I know that, Marco. Yet Lopez is not from here, he arrived some 10 years ago from Argentina. From Santa Cruz.

I still don't get it. What you are driving at, Likos.

A business man who makes a living fucking others out of their money, fucks anyone who is easy prey. Lopez however targets a specific group. How much do you remember of your past, Marco? Like faces and names?

Likos, you've known me for almost as long as I've been down in your country. I remember little or nothing, I was ten or about!

I pause and a hot pain goes through my stomach. I stare at Likos. My lips quiver as I stammer:

Are you trying to say that Lopez is ...

... Is in line with the sect, the same bastards that brought you down to us. Likos finished the sentence for me.

Can't be! I exclaim.

There is a pattern. A pattern that I don’t like at all.

What other shit do we have on him, Likos?

Mostly business stuff. He does make a lot of money with no apparent income. Also he donates a lot. Why is he targeting Jason so much, is another question.

Targeting as in how?

"Look here. His email from one of his 20 accounts. Each time Jason went to the U.S.A. - he, Lopez fired off email to the FBI alleging Jason to be carrying Child-Porn on him. FBI data confirms 9 arrests, search and seizures of Jason's effects when he entered the country. He was however always clean.

Jason's divorce indicates that custody of his children was given to his wife due to the suspicion, that Jason is a Pedo. Lopez seems to have a fixation on this child-porn issue. Also, coincidentally all info to the FBI was directed at Detective Burns, and you know that this very same Mr. Burns was in allegiance with the sect. See he did not email the FBI as such, as like any normal person would do, he emailed Mr. Burns. This means he must know him.

Too much of a coincidence, wouldn't you say, Likos?

I would say so. Who was that priest you kids liked so much?

Padre Ignacio. Yes he is about the only one I can recall. He always cared for us. Helped all the poor kids. Really nice guy.

Now look what happened to this padre. He got excommunicated by the church just about the time you left, again on evidence from Lopez. To whom did Lopez direct this evidence? To the same guy who runs Opus Dei and who is known to hunt down any priest who believes in this so called liberation theology. Padre Ignacio was quite outspoken on this issue. Coincidence again, Marco? Or shall we say, that Lopez fights at all costs anyone who is liberal?

Likos called up more information.

See, here we are. Jason is running a private school on his plantation. No religious instruction in it. Here in these emails Lopez urges the local church authorities to raise any hell they can with the local government and close Jason's school down. Why would he do a thing like that? Why would he bother about what and what not a private school is teaching? Jason's school is just basic education, so that the campensino kids have some basics for life. I am sure there are private schools here that are much more radical and much more higher in their education standards than Jason is. Why go after Jason?

Beats me.

Me too. Whatever it is, this guy is on a mission.

Have you transferred the files back home?

Did already. Does it open some wounds, Marco?

It makes me feel very uneasy, Likos. I begin to worry that if he learns that we are in line with Jason, he will go ballistic.

I felt terrible; some strange foreboding cramped my stomach. Likos' hands brushed over my cheeks. He smiled.

We are about the best hackers there are. We will find out.

People who are so fixated on the Pedo issue, usually do have lil' boys and girls hiding under their beds.

I think so too, Marco. Let's go for of this good local rum.

We shut down and secured our system and then left for the beachfront. We walked rather than taking the car, figuring having the car in the driveway will deter burglars. Likos hinted he wants to go again to the same Cafe` we had been two days ago. I recalled the shoe shine boy, whom I had promised to give my business anyhow.

Some twenty minutes later we reached the same establishment. We ordered some food and took in the sights of a busy tourist town.

Just as we had finished our meal and drank our coffee and had decided to now enjoy the rum, he showed up.

He ambled along the street looking at feet rather than faces. Convincing someone to have a shoe shine meant that he had to know the same shoes were dirty. So naturally he looked at shoes, not at faces. Naturally as well he got little business, one hustles plenty in numbers for a few lucky moments of actual work.

He looked frustrated and the mid day heat was getting to him. He slammed a coin on the counter and ordered a small serving of water. Just then he looked at Likos and me. His face lit up in a smile and he pointed again at our shoes.

I agreed to have him go about his profession. He softly asked if he can drink his water first and we assured him that he could, since we intended anyhow to stay for a while. While he drank, his eyes searched the parking lot. Surprised to not see our car he enquired. His smile broadened as we told him that we live nearby.

His water finished, he went to work. Having polished my shoes and now shifting over to do Likos' he announced that he also can cut lawns, if we had the equipment.

Maybe. Likos said non-committing.

His few pesos earned he waited, maybe Likos will again treat him for a Coke? Likos did and the boy's eyes lit up in his simple joy. His eyes checked the street and then suddenly he turned his back to it and lowered his head. A gesture as to not be noticed from whomever was right now passing by. All that did pass by were simply the many tourists, and a black Cadillac gently drove by and turned into the parking lot. Noticing the car turn to park, the boy quickly hurried off.

Likos gave me a surprised look. What could that mean he enquired now in his language. I shrugged my shoulders and told him that we will soon see.

A stout heavyset man now joined us at the bar, quite obvious the driver of the car. He barked an order for some coffee and slapped the counter repeatedly to indicate him being in a hurry. The bar maid hurried as best as she could. She seemed to be quite afraid of this man.

He also enquired about a man, seemingly a day labourer if she had seen him. She negated and served him the coffee. He checked his watch and grunted some unpleasant words before he turned and decided to watch the street and enjoy his coffee.

When he turned, his gaze fell on us. His eyes travelled about each of us from head to toe, quickly turning away from me but remaining fixated on Likos' blue eyes. He stared at Likos. Literally for what seemed like minutes. Likos was as dark as me, yet had the most sparkling blue eyes one has ever seen.

The staring only ended as an older man shuffled around the corner. He was frail and about in his mid 40's, yet he appeared worn out so he could pass as an easy 60's. The looks of the ones who age early due to too much work and bad nutrition. The man apologized for being late and received a quite loud dress down from the man who had arrived earlier.

Both headed for the parking lot and yet just before getting into his car, the man again stared briefly at Likos.

Who is this man? I asked the barmaid.

This is Senor Lopez! she snapped at us.

You seem not to enjoy his visits, do you, Senora?

I have to enjoy them! she hissed.

Contact! Likos exclaimed. We smiled at each other.

We paid and left soon after. We ambled along the surf and enjoyed the afternoon. The usual mob of vendors accosted us, but other than that it was a nice day.

It was about 4 PM when we reached our house. Security message warned us of an intruder. Hands searched for the pistols and we unlocked the safety.

We entered the driveway. Casually we ambled about our grounds, checking for the intruder. Just as we came around our car we heard a car slow down outside. We checked and the Cadillac passed by, the driver again staring intensely at Likos. Then he stopped and backed up. He called out to us if we had seen a boy, a shoe shine boy.

Hundreds of them, Senor, this is a tourist town.

He is about 10. I have his picture. - The man's voice droned across the driveway. Did I hear someone whimper like a puppy?

I ambled over to the Cadillac, my hand on the pistol.

So what does this boy look like then? I asked.

Like this! he snarled.

He flashed a picture at me, - of our shoe shine boy.

No, I have not seen him. I replied loud, adding,

What is so special about him anyhow? There are many of them that can shine your shoes.

He did not show up for bible-class.

Oh! For not showing up for bible class you flash his picture around like some cop looking for a murderer?

It is serious. We have an agreement, his parents and me. For you the bible might not be that important, but for them it is. Since when do you live here?

Senor. Let me explain you something right from the start. You stopped before our house. You ask questions that do not concern you. This will be the first and the last time that we will tolerate such behaviour from you or anyone else. You do not come here and ask for some boys, nor why we live here nor anything else!

He ducked back into the car to a degree and eyed my pistol with concern; the same being now out of the holster by good 3/4.

I was supposed to buy this house. He quips.

Maybe you are just too cheap as to be able to afford it.

What is you name?

None of your damn business!

I have good connections with the police, young man.

Do you? Do you also want to find out who got better connection to the police? Want to bet? Now move! I yelled.

The window rolled up and he put the car into gear, he actually squealed the tires as he sped off with an unbelievable recklessness.

I turned and looked at Likos. He smiled and pointed at something at our car's front bumper. He told me to reset the alarm, he told me so in his language.

I reset the alarm and locked the gate. I walked back to the car and there - he - sat on the front bumper.

The man is gone, it is safe now. I calmed him down.

He exhaled with demonstrable relief. Likos opened the gate to the garden and let the lil' guy into the garden in a fashion that he was not visible from the road. Still holding his shoe shine box, the boy hurried inside. I locked the door and Likos opened the rear entrance and let the boy into the house.

The lil' guy hurried inside but stopped after a few yards. I faced him and said:

"Now what ever this man wants from you, I do not care. I see that you are frightened and we will help you if we can. Yet, what you see here, you never tell to anyone.

I warn you do not even think of taking anything out of this house. Not even as something as small as a coin or a pencil. Never ever try to rob us. I know, that not all of you lil' guys shine just shoes, some of you do make some good living cleaning out houses. You steal, you are fucked. Understand?!

He quivered, shook, tears filling his eyes and he raised a hand like in an oath and actually swore never to do such. As he raised his hand to that oath I almost fainted. I had seen this oath so often in the times long gone. Likos was right! We had made contact!

Hungry? I asked.

He nodded and repeated that he will never tell or steal.

Likos led him to the kitchen and opened the fridge for him and let him have his choice. His eyes became wide and he was awed at the wealth what our fridge contained. He did not know what to take, and I recall the days when I was in the same shoes. Seeing food I never knew existed.

I checked the road from our window. A man ambled about and repeatedly threw glances at our house. Soon after the Cadillac was parked at the other side of the road. Too bad that our window panes were one way only, too bad for Lopez that is.

The boy was still digging into some cold cuts and cheese, while Likos sent message to our office about the events.

I went to the kitchen and found the boy eating standing up. I motioned at the table asking him to sit down.

Who is this man? I asked

Senor Lopez. My family owes him money. My father has to work at his house for few pesos; I shine shoes to help out for food. My sister is sick and no money for medicine. He wants me to go to Bible class, yet if I go I cannot make money for home.

What is your name? The real name, no street name.

Fabiano. he stutters, adding - Really this is my name.

How old are you?

I will be 11 in March.

Does Lopez know where you live?

Sure he does. He knows I have to go home, he will be waiting for me. But if I can stay until 10, he will not be there.

Where is he at 10?

He is very busy man. At 10 he is in Hotel Miranda.

What does he do there?

Chicas. the boy smiled knowingly.

I smiled back and tousled his hair. I told the news to Likos.

Call Jason and tell him what happened, Likos.

Did already, Marco.

Now finally sated, Fabiano leans back into the chair and rubs his tummy, smiling contently.

He whispers a Gracias.

I get up and about to do something in the other room, when his hand reaches out for mine and he looks me in the eyes with a pleading look and with the softest whispering voice he says.

I really mean it when I said I will not steal or tell. Please Marco, believe me, I am not like the other boys.

I believe you, Fabiano. I really do.

Can you then please help me?

Help you how?

Just get rid of Lopez. I swear we will work for you, just get this man away from us. Please?!

I will get rid of him, Fabiano. Not today, but in a few days or weeks from now. What we plan will take time. Eventually we will get him off your back, young man.

His arms fling around my waist. He buries his face into my belly, exhaling loud with relief and a few tears streak down his face. Likos has entered the room and observed the scene. He takes hold of the boy and turns him to face him.

A few more days and we will be able to end your fear. A few more days and then you can smile again. I promise.

The kid is heaving with emotions in Likos' arms. Mumbling some words of gratitude. Finally he lets go and we return to our computer room. We let Fabiano watch TV. We insist not to be disturbed. He quietly watches and drinks his lemonade.

Likos is now concentrated like a wildcat about to pounce its prey. His fingers race across the keyboard, then the data comes up, finally he has cracked the code.

I watch with awe as he now begins to shuffle money back and forth across the globe from Lopez' accounts. He lets the stocks go hi and low as he pleases and then about an hour into this, - Lopez has just a few cents left.

Night has crept up on us and we suddenly hear Lopez kick his car into gear and leave with tires squealing. We wait. Likos watches the accounts. Fabiano still watches TV. I notice him holding his groins in bad need to go to the bathroom. I silently motion him to follow me. Poor kid really had held his promise not to disturb.

About 8 PM Jason calls.

What the hell happened? He yells into the phone. Lopez has just sold me Blanco plantation and the water right for $ 500,000!

Well why complain? Was this not what you wanted?

I do not complain but the price reeks after something.

Jason, he needs money to pay off his debts and to leave the country in a hurry. He just made a reservation to Belize, leaving tomorrow at 2 PM.

How do you know all this?

We are god, did you not know that?- I joke.

Yeah right! Just this morning he was $14 Million heavy, now you claim he is broke? How is this possible?

Not quite broke, He still has some $ 5,000 on the Inter Caribbean Visa Card, but he is very tight.

He wants to meet me tomorrow at 9 AM at the bank and sign over the deal, can you be there as well?

You bet we will!

With Jason off the phone, we again turn our attention to Fabiano. He has noticed the commotion and also he did not understand our language, nor English, he did deduct somehow that something big had happened.

Likos shuts down the system and then with a smile said that we can now bring the boy home. Lopez is kind of out of commission. Fabiano wanted to believe this but still was so much in fear that he pleaded for us to wait until 10 PM. So we waited and at 10 PM we packed Fabiano in the back seat and drove him home.

He guided us through a maze of shantytowns and as we progressed according to his instructions, the roads became almost impassable. He lived way back at the end of the poverty line. Yet I was wondering how come he was so well taken care off health wise? I was certain that he must have parents who were so determined to give the best to their children, that only due to their sacrifice did he not suffer the effects of abandonment.

As we pulled up besides the small hut after about half an hour drive, three children met us and two quite worked to early age adults. As I turned the car and the headlight illuminated the group, I recognized the face of the man as the one Lopez had been waiting for at the Cafe`.

We stopped and Likos exited first, opening the door for Fabiano. Before I could get out and explain, the little guy was already rambling away like a waterfall about the events of today. Before long sorry faces began to light up with joy and the lil' guy began to introduce us to his parents and siblings.

Their emotions about us helping their boy were boiling over to a fit of gratitude and sincerity one only experiences from the ones that have nothing.

We had to enter their hut, had to sit down and enjoy the meager coffee they managed to brew. Fabiano proudly handed over the thirty pesos he had earned shining shoes today. Likos went back to the car and retrieved the boy’s shoebox that he had forgotten in the commotion. These were his tools of the trade after all.

Likos handed the box to the boy and he weighed it with surprised looks on his face. It must have appeared heavier to him. He looked inside and found that Likos had stuffed it with all the foods that we had observed the boy was so fond of today in our kitchen. In the other hand Likos held a bottle of rum and offered it to the man. Then only did Likos accept the coffee.

We shared a few drinks and explained that we had to be home early, since we had a heavy morning ahead of us.

The man was worried if he will ever get paid for the work he does for Lopez. Tomorrow was Friday, so he complained and he should get paid one day’s work for the four days he worked there. Yet he had not been paid in over three weeks.

Likos asked how much Lopez owed him.

300 pesos, Senor. the old man replied.

Likos glanced at me and I handed the amount to them.

Lopez will be gone by tomorrow,- I said, adding - We need a gardener in our house, can you meet us at noon at the Cafe`?

The old man beamed a smile and assured us he would be there.

We left soon after and drove home. We set our alarm clocks and we were ready to bounce into action by 7AM.

We did just that and reached the Bank at 8:30. Jason was already there and waiting for us in the Managers office. Lopez showed up at 8:45 and turned white as he saw us.

We said nothing, just observed that Jason got all that he wanted and legally solid and non negotiable and retractable. The deal took about an hour or so. Lopez was sweating despite the air conditioning going at full blast. His hands shook and he had a hard time signing all the papers. In the meanwhile, stoically but with the biggest grin a child could muster, Alfonso stood besides his mentor and enjoyed his success.

As all was over, Lopez walked out like a beaten dog. He could however not stop looking at Likos' blue eyes. Quietly he asked as he headed for the door:

Who are you?

Just a government employee, Lopez, but a good one in what I am doing.

And what exactly are you doing?

I ensure that the interests of my country are well served.

Have a nice flight to Belize, Senor Lopez. I smiled at him as he left.

How did you know that? - he exclaimed?

God told me about it. Likos replied.

God?

Yes, God. God is omnipresent is he not? - So are we.

Lopez left.

He was just waving down a Taxi, when a car pulled up. A man, screaming all possible obscenities at him, then moments later gunning him down.

Neither Police nor Security Guards seemed to express any intention to intervene. The Manager let us out through the back door. Jason did not want to expose Alfonso to the sight of death.

See you on Monday at your Plantation, Jason. we said.

Say who was the guy that shot Lopez?

Lopez' last guy that got fucked with the Blanco Plantation was an Arab. They are known not to take too kindly being fucked.

Likos, you didn't just by coincidence bounce a few stocks on that guy to get him that enraged, did you?

Must have been a typing mistake, I sure did not do it intentionally. Likos chuckled.

Don't go overboard with it, Likos.

I won't, trust me, Marco.

We drove back to the house, showered and then went to the same Cafe` as we usually did.

Just having ordered our drinks, the midday newscast came on. The news about Lopez having been gunned down this morning was the first announcement. The waitress jumped for the dial on the radio and turned the volume to full. Then she just threw her towel in the air and exclaimed her joy in a screaming fit. She began to dance around in the confinements of the tiny bar and really was about ready to flip.

It took a few minutes until she calmed down. She then sheepishly placed rum on the bar and excused herself for having acted this way.

I felt a soft hand in my palm and the voice whispering a:

Hi, Marco, Hi Likos.

Happy face snuggling into us. The sorry exhausted face of the father that I had seen yesterday was much more relaxed and looking almost younger.

Gracias, Senor, We have heard the news on our way here.

We had nothing to do with this. I replied.

The old man just smiled knowingly.

Fabiano insisted on shining our shoes, so we let him have his way while we treated the father to some drinks. Then we ambled off to our house.

The man marvelled at the size of our mansion. He immediately began to care for the garden and we showed him the fridge for the refreshments and let the back door open, so that he and the boy can go in to refresh as often as they please.

Then Likos and I left for the mall. We loaded the car with non-perishable food to the brim and then returned about two hours later.

We could not believe the speed with which father and son had worked on this jungle that was our garden before. We saw no dishes used in the kitchen; no glasses had been used, meaning they had not taken a break until now.

We explained that they had all week to do the job, and do not have to rush it within hours. Yet the old man wanted nothing of this and only reluctantly accepted to break for some drinks. They just stopped work for 15 minutes and then headed out again into the searing sun.

I was sure the boy would not last much longer under this heat and under such a workload. About an hour later the father sent him inside and asked if he can do any cleaning for us, since garden work was not yet something this young man could handle.

Fabiano was steaming and close to a heat stroke. Likos ordered him in essence to relax and take things easy. The father was used to such work, all his life he had done hardly anything else but field and garden work. We sensed the fear in them of disappointing us and we explained them that this is not so.

Finally the father slowed down in his pace of work as well, but only after being assured it will not impact on his pay and benefits. We watched him as he went about his work with a steady but slower pace. Still he managed to get a lot done.

Fabiano cooled off in the kitchen and nursed a soft drink. He indicated he was hungry and again we let him raid the fridge. He made a few sandwiches and dutifully brought some to his father.

Fabiano’s father acted enraged for the boy taking advantage of our generosity. I was about to set some things straight. It was now about 4 PM and just another few hours before sundown. I asked the man inside and have his meal.

Fabiano, do you have time to go to school? I asked.

No. I have to help out. We have little money, and my sister is very sick.

Sick with what? I asked.

We don't know, we don’t have money to see a doctor.

Do you want to go to school?

Sure I want, but how?!

Senor, if Fabiano does not make at least 30 pesos cleaning shoes, we have nothing at home. I want finally so much money so that I can bring my daughter to a doctor and find out what is wrong with her. Lopez took all what we had and we still owe him money. He charged us for the bible school and my son still does not even know any reading and writing. We cannot afford a school.

I cupped my hands over my face, envisioning my father saying the same words about me some 10 years ago. Man, did this hurt and bring back memories.

Permit us to help, Senor. - Likos said. - Let us please take care of your daughter concerning a doctor and let us educate your son. You will owe us no money or anything, but let us help, please.

Why?

Simply because we do not believe that any human being shall suffer, and you are good people. We need good people to work with us. We can even give you work on one of our plantations, with good pay, not hunger pay.

Why do you care about my son so much, Senor?

"We care, because yesterday when he was hiding from Lopez, he trusted us and was hiding here. We trusted him too. We were working in our office upstairs and he could have taken anything in this house and sold it for money just so that he could help. Yet in his need he still did not steal.

How many of the ones in need simply steal? He had every right to get some money as well, steal a radio or a phone or some little stuff. Yet in his need and poverty he still remained honest. For this reason alone he has to be helped. We can help and we gladly will help, if you so permit.

The old man shook his head in disbelief, hands scarred from plenty of work and hardship rubbed across his eyes.

Please dad, Please say yes! Fabiano pleaded adding with the most youthful enthusiasm he could muster.

Maybe if I can learn I can become a doctor, and then I can help my sister and you and mom when you get old.

The old man was in tears, with crying voice he stammered.

All my life I worked hard so that my family can have a good life. I am such a failure. The boy is a good boy and I am so sad I cannot help him. I don't want him to have such a life as I had, but how can I say yes to help from you if I have nothing to give you?!

You are not a failure, Senor. With all the hardship you have endured, you still managed to raise a child with honesty, love and a will to help and achieve. This child is your success, not your failure. If given the chance, he will one day be a help not just to you but also to many more. Let us help, and I know that he will pay us and you a thousand times back the little we have given him. What we will give maybe a lot for you, but for us it is very little.

Senor, how old are you?

I am 22 and Marco is 20.

Where Senor, have you learned such compassion?

From the ones who had shown us compassion when no hope was left. We would insult the ones who had helped us, were we not to see what we see in you. If we would walk past your plight and not help.

Then take my son and educate him. If he becomes half as good as you are then I am blessed with the best son a father can ask for.

You are already blessed just having him and having instilled in him this honesty and love. Thank you that you permit us to help.

Tomorrow we will take your daughter to the doctor, our doctor and it will cost you not one Peso. You can work here as long as you want. Work half a day only and we will pay you enough to feed your family. Your son can live here or he can stay with you, just that we will insist on good schooling.

You are not from here, you are from a foreign country?

No we are not from here, we work for the embassy of our country. Actually all we ask from you is to never ever tell anyone who we are, what we do and especially what you see here and who you see here.

This, Senor, this I promise you.

We need people who we can trust. We trust you.

The man hugged his son and the boy squeezed the hell out the old man in full gratitude. Then the boy flung his arms around us and reciprocated with a sincere thank you hug for our help.

Can I stay here tonight? Can I? Marco?

Sure you can.

The father was no longer able to return to work, the emotions had weakened him. He insisted on being called by his first name, Enrico. He asked to be allowed to go home for today. We told him that we will drive him home since we had a few things for his family. Then with the house all secured we drove them home.

Enrico insisted that we shall have some of the rum we had brought yesterday and we gladly accepted.

While they went inside Likos and I began unloading the groceries. The mother was surprised and could not believe the windfall. Enrico did not want to take any pay for his work today, so we quietly slipped it on a shelf.

Now in daylight we had a better look at the three children. One girl and two boys. The sister about age 8 and really appearing ill, the other boys were around 4 and 6. Cuddly lil' guys and full of life despite their so meagre existence.

The mother was speechless as we told them we would see a doctor tomorrow with their daughter. She immediately began heating water to have her all cleaned up and ready to go for tomorrow.

Fabiano went and fetched his few better clothes and even managed to secure a tooth brush, all of which he stored safely in one of the bags the groceries had come in. He was all hyper and bouncy.

We small talked for some time and then left, promising them to be around their house by 9 AM to pick them up for the doctor.

Fabiano said good-bye to his parents with hugs and expression of gratitude for them permitting him this chance. Then he bounced into the backseat and we drove home. Likos drove now, trying to get a feel for the roads and becoming familiar with the region. Fabiano became suddenly quiet.

As we reached the house he entered with a silence and awe on his face. He requested to bathe and then only did he want to change into his better clothes.

We showed him the bathroom, showed him his room, one of the many spare guestrooms we had and then we left the lil' guy to his own devices, just to hear him scream in pain few moments later.

We found him standing shaking on the floor rubbing his leg while hot water only exited the faucet.

So he had his first lesson in adjusting hot and cold to desired temperature, a feature he had never even heard of.

With the temperature adjusted, the lil' guy took his shower and soon exited. He towelled off in his room. Then minutes later he presented himself well groomed and dressed in the best he had. A pair of worn out jeans and a pretty bleached out shirt. His feet were concealed in semi decent sneakers.

I checked my watch and found the time to be sufficient to still reach the mall to get this kid dressed properly. I said so to Likos and he told me to go alone since he still had work to do. I took Fabiano in the car and drove off.

This time he was sitting up front and still had no idea as to where we were heading. He marvelled at the car as such and also he might have grown up without any electricity and modern amenities, he did locate the car radio. I told him that he could not use the radio, but could listen to some discs. I asked what he liked and he smiled at me and replied;

I want to listen to what you like, so that I can understand you.

So I hit the Play button and simply let the disc play that was already in the drive:

Songs of Freedom was in the drive. Traditional songs from the nation that had become my home.

From the corner of my eyes I watched him. His face expressed awe as the first cords from a mandolin were heard, aided by drums and flutes. Soft, gentle music, and my mind wandered off to the land and people that have composed these songs.

Fabiano's eyes were all dreamy as he took in the sounds. His smile was able to win worlds, he reclined in the seat and closed his eyes, just smiling. He did not notice that I had stopped in the parking lot of the mall.

Where are we?

At the mall. I have to get some things for at home.

We left the car and I headed inside. Seeing the abundance of wealth piled up on shelves, Fabiano stumbled about like a drunk.

I gently manoeuvred him towards the clothing section. His eyes were wide as he took in the sights of jeans and shirts piled up in sheer endless numbers. Soon his hand gingerly brushed across a pair of jeans. He saw me look and immediately retracted his hand.

I pulled it off the rack and held it besides him to check for size, it was too big so I retrieved a smaller size and held it along side his body. This one was right for him and so I tossed it in the basket. I selected some shirts, T-shirts, underwear, socks, shorts, a belt, some sneakers, regular shoes, sandals and some slippers for the house. With all this in the basket, I went for the cash and paid. In the last moment I saw him holding a baseball cap and just in the nick of time I added it to the purchase.

Fabiano had said not a word until now. Silent and wide eyed he followed me to the car. In the car, he asked:

You never told me you had a son.

I don't, Fabiano.

So for whom is all this stuff?

Who is 10 and lives in our house?

Me.

So then?

Me?! This stuff is for me?!

Yes, this stuff is for you.

But you paid almost 3000 pesos for all this!

I know what I paid, Fabiano.

I need to work 100 days just for this!

No, you bring me 10 good exams from school for this.

Marco!

He then leaned over to my side and clamped my arm and just pressed his face into my upper arm and whispered unintelligible words.

He walked into the house completely dazed. Likos looked at him and just smiled. He then chased the little guy into his room and made him dress up properly, since we had decided to go for a late meal to the restaurant.

I looked in awe as he emerged dressed anew. No longer the shoe shine boy, no longer any hint of the poverty he had come from.

He observed himself in the mirror and could not believe his own image. We both got bear hugged with emotions shaking his little body. Then after he had calmed down we ambled off for a late meal.

Oh so many times had he observed the rich tourists and others of the affluent societies dine in those wide-open posh restaurants. He had seen from afar the exotic foods and ample dishes that those of means had been able to afford. He had seen the waiters and staff attend to every whim of those patrons. He had maybe slept in his tiny bed dreaming of what he had seen during the day. Yet he had never dreamt entering such an establishment.

Now he entered and was awed as we were shown to the table that Likos had reserved while I was at the mall. Not used to the ceremonies and customs one has to observe in such establishments, he just waited for our cues to sit, where to put his hat and the likes.

In the mall I had observed that he was good with numbers, but he was barely able to read.

When Likos read to him from the menu, he did not understand at all what Likos was talking about. Most of what he ever had of meat, if his parents were able to afford a few slices, was chicken, goat or pork. He had no idea what a shrimp was or a lobster, or what squid and beef were. He had no idea what the difference between fried and boiled and steamed meant. He was in a totally foreign world.

We selected a simple but tasty combination of rice with shrimps and other seafood. We selected it mainly since eating the dish was not coupled with any big ceremonies and procedures as to how one opens a lobster or how one handles utensils. Even if you never had been in such an establishment, you still did not look like a complete idiot by using the utensils the wrong way.

Just a few years ago, I was going through the same crash course as to how one comports himself in such a society of affluence. I strongly felt his confusion and identified it as an experience I had had as well.

Fabiano ate silently, sipping his orange drink occasionally, watching intensely as to how Likos and I handled the situation. It took a while before he felt safe enough to actually concentrate on his hunger and we observed with delight as he soon began to enjoy his meal and began eating with more vigour and more speed.

Soon we noticed he was having a hard time finishing the food, the portion was simply too large for his size. Yet he forced himself to finish. The sign of the ones when receiving a windfall of plenty will not want to waste a morsel, since they feared that such luck would not repeat itself.

We told him he did not have to finish it if it was too much for him. He insisted he wanted to finish, but in the same token he had one huge wish, to be able to sample some ice cream.

He slowed down a bit and then before he knew it the waiter cleaned up his table with still about a 1/4 of his portion on the plate.

Likos assured Fabiano that this was OK and explained that the scraps will go to the