"And Then They Came..." (Chapter XII)
“So you said you had an idea,” Lucas said to his brother-in-law as they exited the rotunda.
Archie looked at him distractedly, following with his eyes the policemen carrying Maldonado’s casket.
“Not now,” he said quietly to Lucas. “I have to follow my boss to Fajardo. Let’s talk about it tonight, at your house.”
“I’ll tell Jeannie to prepare some dinner for you,” Lucas replied.
Archie nodded, and increasing his speed, headed towards one of the black SUV’s waiting behind the hearse.
Lucas took out his cell phone to contact Ojeda, but before he could make the call, saw the security man waiting for him on the other side of Constitution Avenue, munching on a bag of plantain chips.
“Everything alright?” he asked Lucas.
“Yes,” Lucas replied.
He was still thinking about Maldonado son’s last statement. The "anything" reference in their conversation had sounded like an invitation for Lucas to do "something".
“How about you?” he asked Ojeda as they started to walk back to the Doña Fela municipal parking building.
Ojeda shrugged, as if uncertain about how to answer the question. “It proved to be more interesting than I expected.”
Lucas cast him a sideways glance. “Oh?”
“Well, I’m still trying to figure it out,” the bodyguard answered honestly. “After you went into the capitol, I decided to check out the crowd waiting outside, in case, you know, I saw anything suspicious.”
“And did you?’
Ojeda hesitated. “I don’t know.” Lucas looked at him with curiosity.
“I know, I know,” Ojeda continued in a mortified tone. “A security person that isn’t sure he’s not being followed. That must give you a lot of reassurance, shouldn’t it?”
Lucas smiled, but said nothing.
Ojeda maintained a contemplative silence for a long time, as if considering his own words.
“I did see something,” he said at last. “It was…so fast, that it almost convinced me that it was my imagination, but…no, it was real.”
The two men walked past the Treasury Department building on their way to the municipal parking. They were ahead of most of the crowd, who had stayed to see the funeral caravan depart.
“It was a few minutes after we parted ways,” Ojeda continued. “I had stopped at one of the vans parked on this street to buy coffee, as you suggested. As I began to walk away, this kid skittered in front of me, and as I turned to avoid spilling some of it on him, my eyes crossed briefly with those of a man staring directly at me.”
He shook his head, as if trying to convince himself that he had indeed seen something suspicious.
“It was just one second. Even less than that. But his eyes were full of hostility, curious hostility, you know? As if wondering: ‘Who is this guy? What is he doing here?’ I looked briefly at my coffee, which had partially spilled over my fingers trying to avoid the running boy, and when I looked back up, he was gone.”
Ojeda glanced over his shoulder, as if hoping to catch a second glimpse of the man he had seen.
“I searched for him in the crowd for several minutes, but he had vanished. Disappeared. Couldn’t find him.”
He shook his head.
“Weird,” he said.
“Can you recognize him if you see him again?” Lucas asked him.
“Definitely,” Ojeda replied. “Brown hair, about six feet tall, fit. A good looking man. But the type that seems to be full of himself, you know? A psychopath?”
Lucas half chuckled, half looked at him with concern. “You got all that from a split second view?”
“Yeah,” Ojeda replied thoughtfully, then smiled. “That’s what they pay me for...Anyway,” he added, as they entered the municipal parking building and approached Lucas’ PT Cruiser, “stay here while I examine your car. I checked it an hour before, but you can’t be too careful.”
* * *
Inside his car, Rosario watched Lucas’ silver PT Cruiser leave the Doña Fela parking building and head away from Old San Juan. He had parked his beat up Sentra half a block away from the building’s exit, making certain he would see the Puerto Rican when he left. His driving a PT Cruiser made it simpler to spot. He didn’t think much of the four-cylinder car, but its unique shape was much easier to follow.
Rosario hit a pre-programed number on his cell phone, and turned on his car, easing into the street after the PT Cruiser had traveled about two blocks. He would have to be careful, he told himself. Alfaro’s companion had struck him as a fully alert and dangerous man.
His call was answered on the third ring—God forbid that Enrique appeared to be too anxious to receive his latest report—and his boss’s unmistakable voice boomed out of the cell phone’s speaker.
“Our friend has left the ceremony. I will make certain that’s he’s not anywhere near our activity.”
“He won’t,” Enrique asserted with a certainty that admitted no contradiction. “What about his friend?”
“Still with him,” Rosario replied in a neutral tone.
A pause followed. It signaled Rosario that his boss was curious about Lucas’ bodyguard.
“Well, keep an eye on them. If they do anything that worries you, let me know.”
Enrique ended the call without saying goodbye.
Rosario had been unsettled by his unexpected encounter with the Puerto Rican’s friend...Bodyguard. He was certain that Lucas’ companion was his bodyguard. One of them. They had observed two others in Alfaro’s home.
He had been careless, his curiosity getting the best of him. And for a brief moment, he had let his guard down, enough to be noticed. It had been less than a heartbeat, a split second, but in that moment, their eyes had locked and they had recognized each other.
Lucas’ companion was a professional. It had taken all of Rosario’s skill to evade him, and even then, he had nearly been discovered. He would have to be a lot more careful.
The PT Cruiser crossed one of the bridges under repair and turned right, towards the expressway that bypassed Miramar.
Good, thought Rosario.
As Enrique had foreseen, Alfaro would not be a hindrance to that day’s plans.
(Chapter XIII of "And Then They Came..." will be posted on Thursday, June 4)