Enrique finished his meager breakfast—a cup of coffee with no sugar, and a butter-less toast—which he had eaten on a small table on the second story balcony of his El Yunque rented house. Despite the majestic view of the lower mountains below him and the coast beyond, he hardly dedicated a glance at them, concentrating on the task at hand. His dark eyes burned into whatever images his brain was conjuring, oblivious of the world around him.
To Rosario, sitting at another table with Hassam—the normally curly-haired, olive skinned Syrian who had been given a modern, Beckham-style haircut—it was a familiar scene. Both men knew better than to interrupt his present train of thoughts.
He seemed, Rosario thought, like the long-lost twin brother of Homer Addams, from the ghoulish Addams family: the same, fascinated, almost out-of-body stare; his half, calculating smile; his calm but passionate, explosive personality; his long, contemplative silence spells, accentuated by his thick dark mustache; and his crooked, almost beak-like nose.
A beast of prey,if he had ever seen one, Rosario observed to himself. In a hand-to-hand fight, Rosario could have easily killed him. But woe unto him who became a target of his plans. For that person, there would be no salvation, no matter how well protected he turned out to be.
Like Lucas Alfaro.
As if overhearing Rosario’s thoughts, Enrique focused his attention on his two associates, making Hassam shift uncomfortably in his seat. Hassam was no coward. He had been one of San Miguel’s original team, who had helped capture the Governor and his staff in La Fortaleza the prior year, and later escaped in a submarine.
Unlike San Miguel, and despite his protests, Hassam had not been part of the group that had returned to San Juan several months later. Only San Miguel, Czecka, and Daniel had been part of that team. And that was probably the reason why Hassam was still alive.
Yet even the fearless Hassam felt uncomfortable under Enrique’s cold gaze.
“So,” Rosario said to Enrique, trying to sound more at ease than he really felt, “what new tortures have you come up with for this Alfaro fellow?”
“For Alfaro?” Enrique repeated absently. “Nothing. Today we do nothing. But tomorrow...tomorrow we’ll be busy.”
He looked at his watch. It was slightly ten minutes after eight in the morning.
"We need to get ready for tomorrow," he said. "Let's meet in the Computer Room at one thirty, to review our plans."
Enrique placed his napkin next to the empty breakfast plate, and stood up. Going down the stairs, he walked out of the mansion and into the main garage, entering through a side door.
Although three cars could fit inside, only a white van, in the final stages of becoming an ambulance, occupied the space.
The strong odor of paint made him wince. He found Da’ud, the short balding bearded man who had placed the explosives outside of the jewelry store, and Yousef, a quiet, young Palestinian with a sour expression and burning dark eyes, working on the vehicle. Both were wearing paint respirator masks.
Enrique examined the van for several seconds, then signaled Da’ud to follow him outside.
“How’s it going?” he asked, after both men stepped out of the garage.
“It should be ready by tonight,“ Da’ud answered.
Enrique considered the information without saying anything.
“And the ambulance’s interior?”
“Everything will be ready. Yousef and Sami should have no problem posing as local paramedics.”
Sami Masalha was the second Palestinian they had recruited for that particular task. Like Yousef, he was a young trained paramedic who had lost part of his family during an Israeli retaliatory raid in Palestine’s West Bank. In the case of Yousef, it had been his mother.; in Sami’s case, his wife and his two year old girl. Of the two, Sami was the lighter skinned, but Yousef’s bronzed skin tone was not unusual in the Puerto Rican skin color spectrum.
Enrique nodded. “I want you to rehearse with them the operation until it’s second nature to them, understood?”
“Understood,” Da'ud answered curtly.
There was no lost love between the two men. Da’ud disliked Enrique and his secretive ways as much as he had liked San Miguel, and Enrique knew it.
It presented no problem for Enrique, though. He did not care about the popularity that he enjoyed with his men, as long as they did what he told them to do, and did it well.
And Da’ud, when the moment came, would do his work well.
“We will meet at one thirty in the Computer Room to review tomorrow’s operation.” Enrique said, turning and walking away.
* * *
A frigid, air conditioned room at the back of the house had been officially designated as the “Computer Room”, its door even having a masking-taped paper that bore such designation.
It was not a misnomer. It held three powerful desk computers, complemented by three, state of the art 30-inch wide screens, as well as seven laptop computers, several memory and battery backup systems, a security surveillance system, and two dozen smaller screens showing the activity in several of the group’s targeted areas, including La Fortaleza and Lucas’ home.
This was José Ramón Ramírez’s domain. A sixty-three year old Spaniard who from his youth had advocated the breakup of all modern countries into small, fractioned tribes—considering such measures as the only way to eliminate all major wars—he had dedicated his life to achieve such goal. José Ramón had joined Enrique and San Miguel’s group in the 1990’s, bringing with him his vast knowledge of the world of cyber electronics.
The Spaniard was a relatively short man, measuring 5’7”, with a large, squarish head that—as he put it—was necessary to house his superior brain; a clean-shaven square jaw that denoted his innate stubbornness and his usual bad temper; gray short hair; and equally light-colored eyes. In his youth, he had been thin as a rail, but after his fortieth birthday his body had expanded to what could now pass as “pleasantly plump”.
Unlike his weight, he still maintained a marked Spanish accent, which was apparent not only when he spoke in Spanish, but also in fluent English, French, German, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, and Mandarin.
Enrique barged into the Computer Room uninvited, earning an irked look from its nearly permanent inhabitant. He was the only one that José Ramón allowed to walk in without knocking, but that did not mean that he liked it.
“How is our subject doing?” Enrique asked him without any preamble.
“Same as yesterday,” José Ramón replied in his thick Spanish accent. “The same routine that has been followed during the last month.”
“They haven’t altered it after our attack on the capitol? That’s foolish.”
“The cameras I installed have worked perfectly. There have been no changes in any of the day's activities. Take a look.”
Enrique observed three of the screens, which showed various angles of the facility under surveillance. At the moment, the screens showed very little activity. That would change at one forty-five in the afternoon. Then, along with the rest of tomorrow's team, he would take a very close look at what was happening.
He smiled broadly, a full Homer Addams grin.
“Good! Then barring anything unexpected, we’re on for tomorrow!”
* * *
Tropical Depression Twenty-one - Advisory 1
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
5:00 PM AST
As of 05:00 AST the center of now Tropical Depression Twenty-one was located near latitude 13.6 North, longitude 52.3 West, but is expected to turn to a more northwesterly course in the next couple of days. The depression is moving toward the west north west at 18 mph (29 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (56 kph), and approaching the Leeward Islands. The system is forecast to become a storm within the next twelve to twenty four hours, and strengthen into a hurricane within the next day or so. Interests in the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic should maintain a watch on the system.