"And Then They Came..." (Postscript)
I started working on “And Then They Came…” on or about June of 2019, after several of the people who had read “Justifiable Evil” asked me to write a sequel. At the time, I was writing the a fictional-historical novel about the Regimiento 65 de Infantería, (which I plan to eventually finish in a three-book series, each volume not exceeding 300 pages).
When the pandemic struck us unexpectedly, I had already written about 200 pages of the sequel to “Justifiable Evil”, all of which were in a very rough stage. At the time, the sequel had no title.
I was up to Chapter XXXIV, so I figured that—since my contribution to the fight against the pandemic was nil—I could at least try to entertain those who were locked down in their homes, and post one chapter of the book per week on Facebook and in this website.
At that rate, I would have an additional thirty four weeks to finish the last 100 pages of the 300 page sequel.
The math worked out great. With a thirty-four week time buffer, I would have more than two hundred days to finish the rest of the novel, which translated to half a page per day, not including Sundays. (Never work on a Sunday).
Easy as pie, right? NOT!
As the saying goes,” the best of plans of mice and men…often go awry…”
And mine sure did.
I gave the sequel a provisional title—“And Then They Came…”—which I think will become its permanent title if and when the book is finally published—and I posted its first chapter—actually the Prologue of the sequel—on April 19, 2020.
However, it immediately became apparent that a week between the posting of each chapter would be too long of a pause, and so I decided instead to post two chapters per week, every Monday and Thursday.
I have to make a short pause here to explain why my work calculations subsequently went completely wrong.
During most of my high school years, I was fortunate enough to be taught English by the best teacher I ever had—not only in high school, but later in college. She went then by the name of Sister Annuntia, which she later changed to Sister Joan (and I don’t blame her).
She would sit ramrod straight in class behind one of the student desks, and form the other desks in a horseshoe formation around her. Then, staring at us with her bright blue, nearly transparent eyes—amplified by rimless, round lenses—and without cracking a smile, she would bombard us with difficult questions, making caustic or sarcastic comments when we failed to answer correctly.
However, her stern façade, concealed a genuine concern and love for her students. She taught us to understand and love English literature, and to “properly and effectively” express ourselves in writing. More importantly, she stressed the importance of reasoning things through.
“Think!” she would unexpectedly call out, making all of us jump.
She was also my moderator in the Forensics “Originals” category, which gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with her. And when for some reason I confessed to her that I wanted, some day, to write a book, she gave me the following advice:
“Beware of the characters that you create in your book, because they will end up dictating to you how the plot will develop.”
I didn’t fully understand her advice until I started writing “Justifiable Evil”.
Then, as I began to work on the book’s characters, they began to acquire personalities and traits very much of their own. They became, before my very eyes, intensely real persons, capable of acting and reacting in certain ways, but not in others.
And even though I had prepared an outline for the novel, I was forced to vary or extend it on several occasions, because what I had planned in the outline did not fit the personality of one or more of the characters involved. Consequently, what I had planned to be a five hundred page book in “Justifiable Evil” extended to more than twice that length.
I conveniently forgot about Sister Annuntia’s warning and my prior experience in “Justifiable Evil” when I continued to write “And Then They Came…” But as she had predicted decades before, the characters I had created sometimes could not behave as I had conceived it in my initial outline, and I had to vary and extend the plot.
Thus, the originally planned 300 page sequel grew to 540 (without counting the present Postscript).
Even worse, the plot sometimes led me to places where I had to stop writing for several days, because I could not figure out how I would carry out what I had very briefly planned in my initial outline. On more than one occasion, I painted myself into a corner for which there seemed to be no exit.
For example, (please don’t read this paragraph if you haven’t read the book) in Chapter LV of the sequel, Governor Pietrantoni finds out that the alleged paramedics flying in a plane with him and his son Francisco are in reality armed terrorists carrying a nuclear device to detonate over Washington D.C. In my outline, I had merely written that the Governor “stops” the terrorists in the plane. But how in God’s name does he do it?
It took me a couple of weeks to figure out an answer, do the research, and then write the chapter. And like that problem, there were several others. (“How does Flanigan escape from his predicament? How do the terrorists approach Lucas’ home in the middle of Hurricane Fay? How do Jeannie and Michael escape from an overturned minivan in the middle of a raging flood? And so on and so forth.)
Also, each of the chapters that I had already written required at least one day of extensive review and polishing. (And they will inevitably require more, before I publish the sequel.)
Despite all of this, I enjoyed immensely writing “And Then They Came…” Since I was doing the sequel to “Justifiable Evil”, I got to bring back many of the characters that I had previously created in the prior novel and that, for better or for worse, had become real persons to me: Lucas, of course, but also Negrón, Archie, Doel, “Correcaminos”, Gomez, Montañez, Maldonado, Michelle, Vanessa, Alfredo, Francisco, Governor Pietrantoni, and President Powell, among many, many others, each of them a distinct person with their own particular quirks, opinions, talents, and prejudices.
In the sequel, I gave Jeannie—Lucas’ wife—a much more prominent role, which she deserves completely. It is my opinion, to this day, that women are on the whole tougher than men, and I wanted to display Jeannie’s strength in this book.
“Justifiable Evil” was—believe it or not—a love song to Puerto Rico. (Some of you may think that it’s a strange way to show your love for Puerto Rico in what was basically a terrorist attack on Old San Juan, but it is.) The novel dealt with Old San Juan: its forts, La Fortaleza, las Fiestas de San Sebastián, and the tunnels—imaginary and real—under the city. But more importantly, it dealt with Puerto Rico’s history, its legends, and most importantly, its people.
I continue with that love song in “And Then They Came…”, except that the action shifts from Old San Juan to the El Yunque rainforest and a hurricane as bad as Hurricane María.
In fact, the NOAA weather bulletins interspersed throughout the present book were lifted almost directly from the bulletins put out by NOAA during Hurricane María. The description of the hurricane itself and its aftermath comes from my prior experiences with hurricanes Hugo and Georges, however, since I was not in Puerto Rico for María. I shudder to think how much worse than my prior experiences María was.
In order to realistically create the sequel, I had to think of a reason why the terrorists would return to Puerto Rico.
It couldn’t be just revenge. No matter how evil terrorists can be, they have limited resources to employ, and they will usually hesitate to waste them. Therefore, coming back to Puerto Rico to avenge San Miguel and his cohorts just was not enough of a reason for them to return.
If the terrorists decided to come back, particularly in the spectacular fashion in which they did return, it would have to be for a far weightier, more earthshaking reason. A second nuclear device, to be detonated over Washington D.C., seemed to provide the right motivation.
To explain the presence of the second nuclear device, I had to reach back to the beginning of the plot in “Justifiable Evil”, when the core of the first nuclear bomb was smuggled into the island inside a hollow torpedo fired by a Venezuelan submarine, and received by San Miguel’s group. The Prologue of the sequel for the first time reveals that was not one, but two uranium cores inside of the torpedo. It’s the second core that the terrorists in “And Then They Came…” plan to detonate over Washington D.C.
Since most of the villains in “Justifiable Evil” died in that book, I had to create new villains.
In “Justifiable Evil”, I took great pains in portraying each character through his or her own eyes. Governor Pietrantoni, for example, was a statehooder, promoted the ideals of statehood, while Johnny, the FEPI (“Federación de Estudiantes Pro Independencia”) university leader, fought for Puerto Rico’s independence.
Similarly, San Miguel thought that by planting a nuclear device in one of the tunnels in Old San Juan, to detonate it during a G-20 Conference taking place there, he promoted the interests of the downtrodden third world countries. (Thus the title, “Justifiable Evil”.)
I did not condemn or praise any of the points of view of any of the characters in the novel, leaving that task to its readers.
In “And Then They Came…”, I do not treat the villains with the same impartiality. They are, in essence, evil.
Enrique, for example, is a cold and methodical genius who wants to become the leader of the terrorist organization for which he (and previously San Miguel) work. His character is based on a real person I know, an extremely intelligent, very pragmatic person—just not evil. In fact, he is my personal friend.
Another of the villains, Nour, is a sadistic, fearless female killer who shed any traces of her humanity in the misogynist culture of her native Egypt. Rosario is a handsome, self-absorbed man who will do anything to advance his status.
In order to show their callous approach to other people’s lives, and predispose the readers against them from the very outset, I was forced to begin “And Then They Came…” with a massacre where several of the best characters in “Justifiable Evil” are killed.
This, for me, was a terrible and heart-wrenching experience, because even though the massacre was necessary for the development of the plot, the characters were all dear friends of mine. After spending years writing about them in “Justifiable Evil”, trying to figure out how they thought, felt, and reacted, they had all become an integral part of me. I truly mourned their deaths in “And Then They Came…”.
Not that I regret writing the sequel.
It gave me an additional outlet, besides Cira, to release the pressure through which we’ve all been this year.
During what seems to be a-never-ending lockdown, I have been forced to endure the heartbreaking passing away of Sister Annuntia, of my Villanova buddy Steve Pirnat, of my brother-in-law Chago, and of my wife’s dear cousin Ana María; the nerve-wracking Presidential campaign and even worse, the elections that followed; the hurricane season and Tampa’s brush with Hurricane Eta; the various lonely, cooped-up holidays and celebrations—Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, my birthday, Cira’s birthday, our anniversary, July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Three Kings Day, and Valentine’s—the unfounded claims of electoral fraud and the despicable attack against the U.S, Capitol; the astonishing victories of Tampa’s teams in the Stanley Cup, the football playoffs, and the Super bowl; and our various trips to the Orlando Convention Center to get our first and second Covid vaccinations, to name a few.
During all of that time, it has been a true blessing to let off some steam and to be able to write and polish the various chapters of “And Then They Came…”
It kept me calm and—if not completely sane—as sane as I could possibly be. It gave me an outlet to express myself and vent my emotions.
And to my great surprise, throughout all of these events, I was able to publish, twice a week without exception, a Prologue, seventy-nine regular chapters, six additional chapters in the Epilogue, and this Postscript, from April 19 until this Monday, February 15.
To all who followed the book, thank you!
To those who may still be interested in reading it, all of the posted chapters are in the “Justifiable Evil” Facebook page, and in the present website's Blog section.
I will try to publish “And Then They Came…” in book form, and Lucas Alfaro and his friends will hopefully return with new adventures.
In the meantime, I will continue working on the historical-fiction story of Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment. I am on page 125 of the first volume, which I have titled “The Rum and Coke Outfit”.
“And Then They Came…” is dedicated to three very important people: my wife Cira, my Uncle Wilson (“Eddy”) Pabón, and my brother-in-law, Iván (“Che”) Alfaro.
Cira is my real life editor.
She reviewed every chapter, made countless corrections, and sometimes pointed out to errors or inconsistencies in the plot, or criticized passages or sentences that she didn’t like. I was able, by her facial expressions, to gauge how the story was progressing, and where it needed additional work. I also enjoyed immensely those moments when I was able to shock or surprise her by an unexpected twist in the plot.
My Uncle Wilson Pabón is the youngest of my father’s brothers and sisters (and the most handsome, even though my dad appeared in several soap operas). He is also the most adventuresome person I have ever met, joining the Air Force when he was very young, scuba diving when it was not fashionable to do so, and later moving to Texas and becoming a genuine cowboy. There is a lot of my Uncle Wilson in Lucas Alfaro, although Lucas is not as fearless—or reckless—as my uncle was—and I suspect still is.
Wilson is presently under the weather, but with God’s help he will recover. One of the greatest compliments to my first book, “Justifiable Evil”, was his call telling me how much he had enjoyed it.
I borrowed the surname of “Alfaro” from my brother-in-law, Che, although he is one of the most gentle and non-violent persons I know. But like the protagonist in my book, he is kind, honorable and reliable, and has a great sense of humor.
Like my Uncle Wilson, he recently went through some health problems, but thankfully has fully recovered.
He has followed “And Then They Came…” with great interest, and hopefully he will read this Postscript.