Shiva's Messenger

Dipping into the Hot Salsa

Chapter 6 – Shiva’s Messenger


Dipping into the Hot Salsa

Romero’s BMW Z5 arrived at the lawyer’s office at ten past ten. His being slightly late was accidental but it also fit the role. The drug store had been busy and then he spent some time fixing an addition to his manicure. His research into the role had found a peculiarity that fit well but yesterday it would’ve given an impression he didn’t want. Today though, it should be ideal.

“Did you kidnap my employee?” Watson joked but he was also wondering. Jessica was conscientious about work but this morning she hadn’t even answered a wake up call to her home—in fact three of them. “I sent her to coffee and I haven’t seen her since.”

“I clearly recall your saying that she could take all the time she wanted.” The Columbian smiled at the slightly peevish employer manning his reception counter himself.

“That was yesterday.” The lawyer suddenly wondered if his clever trick had worked better than he expected—but not actually as he wished. “Did you give her too much caffeine to sleep?”

“What I gave, in an overabundant quantity, isn’t your concern.” After what the boss had done, Romero enjoyed this but he spoke casually as they walked to the inner office. “Jessica will be back, without a ransom demand, either when she chooses or after the open-ended date you tasked her with, finally ends.”

“Oh.” William’s experiencing a major pang of jealousy cut off any possible reply. Now he wasn’t even sure if his clever trick would do him any good. Jessica was supposed to be promised lure not the already received reward. He certainly hadn’t expected his young intern to—on a first date. Watson’s envy flared even further as his mind pictured the incomparable young woman with the Columbian.

Watson gestured at another staff member as a pre-arranged signal for her to start brewing. They entered the lawyer’s sanctum and the men took the same seats as yesterday. The two manila envelopes on the coffee table were the room’s noticeable change.

“Before we begin,” during a discussion with his friend about a possible sweet deal in the works, questions had arisen, “may I ask you why you’ve chosen a small town for this business?”

“You can inquire but you won’t like the answer.” Romero smiled wryly. “I surmised that a lawyer swimming in a shallower pool of clients would be desperate enough for business, to give me the priority of service that I demand.”

“Oh.” Again William was stuck for a ready reply. To disagree in his defense, was effectively chasing the client away. The young upstart was certainly correct about the not liking it portion.

“However, that’s not the only reason either. Do you wonder why a man so young as myself has such an elevated position within my organization?”

“I’m sure it’s due to your competence.”

“I suggest ambitious is the optimum adjective.” The Columbian confided. “My father is a very influential man and I aspire to his rank but I also have older brothers. This project is my conception and it could be my elevation as well.”

“From what I’ve seen of it so far, the idea is an excellent one.” William wasn’t just schmoozing. Having a business that did rentals as opposed to sales could hide a huge cash influx without alerting any suspicion. The earnings weren’t traceable through supplier sales either. The infrastructure details Romero briefly discussed yesterday had the business doing accounting, reporting income and paying taxes. Governments like taxes and are less likely to snoop too closely at revenue sources.   The scheme was brilliant.

“I trust you don’t mind.” Having noticed William neither smoked nor had an ashtray, Romero had brought some large cigars. He removed one from the tube and torched it alight. This Columbian didn’t habitually smoke but many Latin men did. A few puffs without inhaling shouldn’t hurt my health too much.

“By all means.” Watson left the office to find a saucer and in a moment returned to an odorous atmosphere. A somewhat older female employee trailed behind. To be prepared, the law firm had purchased a top quality espresso machine, a gourmet blend of beans and the appropriate demitasse set. As she bent to put a coffee service on the table, her eyes fell on the new client’s hand.

Looking up with a smile of thanks, Romero was slightly taken aback by the woman’s dagger-throwing glare. Perhaps she didn’t care for the menial task of serving coffee, his cigar was offensive or maybe rearranging the pre-empted appointments was bothersome.

“Thank you, Irene.” The lawyer dismissed the woman.

Irene fanned at the stinking fumes as she backed out. Her sour glance at the door could’ve curdled chemical coffee whitener.

“Have some?” With a hand gesture, William indicated Romero should help himself, as the tray was situated directly in front of him.

“Yes, please.” The client intentionally misinterpreted.

The host was forced to partially stand, in able to serve his guest. “Oops.” His awkward positioning brought a tiny spillage that stained the top envelope.

“Is that what you wanted me to see?” Romero’s eyes took full advantage of the small gaffe by riveting onto the brown droplets. ‘Off-balanced men seek to regain footing and lose perspective of where they’re toppling’. Another of his father’s lessons applied.

“I began by drafting up a simple corporation as we discussed yesterday.” The clumsy lawyer avoided the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question as both fit too well to choose. He handed a now filled cup to his guest. Then, he wiped the liquid on his pants and withdrew the papers.

Since the lawyer had gone to the trouble with the beverage, Romero made a point of not even sampling it. He set the demitasse down without having taken a sip. Instead, he pinched two fingers as scissors onto the proffered notes.

“It was an uncomplicated task and mostly just boilerplate stuff.” The attorney pretended not to notice the slight and continued his spiel as Romero perused the documents. He noted the young man even held the papers in an elegant way. Two sides of his fingers on his left hand acted as a staple in the upper corner. The right edge of the papers rested against his right palm and the side of his thumb flipped the pages. His two fingers of that hand also held the cigar. Romero had obviously handled many contracts but would never smudge the ink of a single letter.

The young client’s peripheral vision caught William animatedly picking at the other envelope, demonstrating eagerness for the next topic. Romero remained unhurried. His method of holding papers was quite unnatural and awkward. Making it seem casual had taken plenty of tutoring and practice under a topic of fingerprint avoidance.

“Then while I was working,” Watson could no longer restrain his eagerness and forced an unplanned blunt segue. The client had taken an awfully long time sifting through routine material. William felt he should take care with clauses, as Romero carefully monitored them. “I was suddenly struck with an intriguing notion.”

“This is what I wanted.” Romero placed the documents on the coffee table. With a deliberate pause he allowed some tension to build before allowing the release. “So, what’s this other idea?”

“I know you do require the corporation as I’ve outlined in the first brief.” As a toy propeller with an elastic band wound to knots, Watson’s tongue spun over-fast when freed. He had to consciously slow himself down but his whole delivery lacked the pace and poise he’d practiced in his mirror. “But I wondered if you required the additional expenses of a branch office. You’re not warehousing or distributing, so you don’t need a facility for that. As you indicated, most of the rental payments would simply have to be dropped off or mailed into an office. I know the market here and I don’t think your finding suitable premises will be easy.”

The Columbian client sat quietly looking impassive, even when the lawyer inserted a pause for question or quip. The performance was going poorly enough without further foiling required.

“Currently,” William took the pages from the second envelope but his stage cues were off on that as well. Instead of looking like his brandishing important evidentiary support, it seemed more as fanning a perspiring face. “I have enough space in my office area to hire extra staff to coordinate the collections, the banking and the disbursements. I’ve jotted down notes on a viable structuring.”

At an almost painfully expectant hesitation on William’s part, Romero deferred a comment again but he offered a hand for the notes. It was becoming too embarrassing to watch the exaggerated theatrics of the fluttering papers.

“As I see it,” William resumed and handed over the notes for Romero’s scrutiny, “having an infrastructure as I’ve outlined—” Watson stopped his presentation in mid-sentence as Romero held up his hand for silence. The jostle knocked a thumb-width of tobacco ash onto the lawyer’s carpet.

“A good cigar must be allowed to divest itself when it is ready, and not sooner.” Romero offhandedly explained without an apology. “Would you have one?” He pulled out another one of his stogies. The young Columbian read while Watson lit up.

After the long forced march of his monolog, now the lawyer was suffering an unnatural quiet. The young businessman methodically scanned the set of papers. He glanced up at each mildly dramatic page turn to judge the attorney’s discomfiture. The non-smoking William was chain puffing his cigar and a few hiccups showed he was inhaling some by accident.

Finally, Romero tossed the handwritten documents to a scatter on the coffee table, as if discarded. He stared into Watson’s eyes for a long interval. Poor withering William struggled uncomfortably to maintain a fixed return look.

“Do you have a radio of some kind or a stereo in this office?” The Latino asked the question but didn’t release the lawyer’s eyes from his riveted gaze.

“Yes.” Gratified at an excuse to break away, Watson leaped to his feet. Slightly dizzy from inhaling the unaccustomed smoke and getting up quickly, William realized he didn’t quite understand why he was now standing. “Uh, would you like it on?”

“Sometimes it’s prudent,” Romero’s words were whispered, “to have background sound dampen any possibility of being overheard.”

Watson adjusted the volume. “Is this loud enough?”

“It’s fine.”   The drug lord waited until Bill returned to the sofa. Then he leaned forward and spoke in a muted tone. “I don’t think you’re a stupid person. I therefore assume you hold a suspicion of what our Latin Dance Music could really be.”

“Since the first moments of our meeting I’ve been fairly certain of what your product is. This is not a problem for me.”

“I came to your office proposing to set up a business.” Romero leaned back comfortably in the chair and set his arms on the rests. “The simple representation of our interests from a strictly legalistic position would have been lucrative in itself to more than compensate your efforts. Am I correct?”

“Yes.” Watson imagined a guillotine above his couch poised to sever his aspirations from his pocketbook. He nearly winced as his own cigar ash broke and struck the coffee table.

“What you’re proposing in this draft is far in excess of that mandate.” After examining the lawyer through a pause, Romero continued. “You’ve got cajones and I like that in an associate.

“Yes I do.” From some vacations in Mexico, Watson’s internal Spanish phrasebook contained only two items; ‘una cerveza por favor’ and ‘cuánto senorita’. However, from the context he guessed that possessing such was good and he assigned a likely translation.

“Now we’ve reached the spot where both of my reasons for choosing a small town lawyer could pay off.” Romero tilted his head back, as if he were making a critical decision. He drew a cavernous mouthful of smoke and blew tiny puffs toward the ceiling. A lengthy minute elapsed before the drug lord retuned his attention to the barrister. “I’ll use your phone for a few minutes in private. You can go and get us something stronger to drink. I prefer cognac.”

“Uh,” Watson paused briefly, then stood to leave the room, “my office is yours. No one will interrupt you until you open the door.”

After the lawyer left, Romero finally sipped his coffee. He savored the sweetness of both the drink and the moment. ‘Greed is a strong motivator for the corrupt.’

Romero had seen the lawyer’s hesitation and guessed what caused it. He used a fingernail to lift the phone and noted the extra wire. In a profession that uses phones regularly and where the root of the industry is based on mistrust, recorded conversations were commonplace. A look in the desk drawer confirmed the tape was running. Perfect! This next stage would’ve been useless without.

Carefully picking up the receiver, he cradled it on his shoulder while dialing with his knuckle. Romero hardly needed fingerprint caution. Since a large portion of a law firm’s billing is structured around phone calls, this appliance was probably handled more than the washroom door at a busy bus terminal.

The Calgary number connected with a cell phone manned Spanish-speaking actor working an easy gig that paid well in cash. The two Hispanics proceeded to have the conversation Romero had carefully scripted. Only one ash managed to land on William’s desk. After hanging up the phone, Romero put his feet on the blotter pad and leaned back as far as the recliner’s mechanism permitted.

“She walks in beauty, like the night
, of cloudless climes and starry skies.” Romero closed his eyes and he saw Jessica walking through his night before. What am I doing quoting Byron here? The answer to that question returned quickly but that only made it worse. A silly smile graced his lips. Poetry became part of Romero persona from the moment Jessica evoked it in him but that character aspect didn’t need to surface in this office.

The Columbian walked to the table but stubbing a phallic cigar into the saucer conjured a vision forefront in recent memory. Focus! Romero mentally slapped himself. He snooped at office nick-knacks to hold his mind in the present while awaiting the lawyer’s return.

“To good deals!” William saluted his snifter but the speech was short. He was breathing heavy from running out for the liquor.

“That’s a very good toast.” Romero left his glass untouched on the table. Leaving extra prints wasn’t necessary and it sent a signal of who received the salutes in this arrangement. “Your proposal has received tentative approval. I have the autonomy to strike whatever accord we can come to terms on.”

“Which parts of my proposal do you want to modify?” Watson drank so excitedly that a small amount dribbled onto his chin.

“On paper, none of them.”

“Then what numbers are we negotiating?” William’s voice was tentative. It seemed to quick to be at the financials already.

“We’re not ready to talk dollars yet.” Romero’s demeanor was weighty. “Perhaps your mind downplayed the reasons why I chose you. I can assure you that I was quite serious.”

“Your influential father,” William struggled to recall that far back in the conversation, “and uh,” he couldn’t think of a self-flattering way to say the other.

“The uh was proved when you presented your proposal.” The drug lord smiled briefly and then his face was grim again. “This deal will increase your personal revenues by a factor of at least five. Why would I just stop in and drop that in your lap?”

“Because,” the lawyer was stumped and the serious tone of the talk was disconcerting after being so excited about getting approval, “you need me to establish your enterprise?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I could arrange it anywhere. The other reason isn’t my father, the crucial elements are my older brothers.”

“You won’t inherit the position.” Watson saw the crux. “How can I be of assistance?”

“When the time comes, I intend to be in a position to take the torch from my father’s hands.” Romero leaned close. “I’ll negotiate as favorable a deal as I can—on paper. You and I can discuss how we split that amount and how much you’re ready to upfront to buy into the deal. Now if you’re ready—we can get to the numbers.”

“Are your brothers a danger?” William grabbed his drink and downed it for a bracer.

“Would you like something more effective as a nerve calmer?” The drug lord laughed abruptly and brandished the long fingernail of his left pinky. The keratin nail plate extended far enough to serve as a coke spoon and indicated extensive dealings with cocaine. He pantomimed taking a dip of the powder and pushing it at the lawyer.

“Uh.” Watson could almost see the illegal narcotic in the imitated action. He hadn’t noticed that fingernail before. “I think I prefer not.”

“That’s a wise decision. A good businessman doesn’t want to become overly fond of his product. That’s especially so with ours as soon one is unable to dance to any other tunes.” He looked at William to gauge a reaction to the confirmation of cocaine’s addictive qualities. Obviously, the proceeds to him were well worth the harm to someone else.

“Yes, my siblings are a threat but you’re in an enviable position. My call granted me the authority and I also have the responsibility. From the other end, the local representatives have the risk. All you have to do is collect the money—and skim some for me.”

“Ah!” Now the attorney saw the whole scenario and it was a gem. The younger brother began accumulating wealth to be ready and he used people eager to get in, to assure himself of their loyalty. “Count me in!”

“How much of the action do you want?”

“All of it.” William answered in a nanosecond.

“That’s not going to happen.” Romero chuckled.

“How about I take as much as possible then?” Retrospectively, Watson could see the young drug lord’s good sense in that as well.

“Let’s put it into a formula and you can decide. I’ll negotiate a cut of 5% but you’ll only keep three of that and you have to handle your own expenses.”


“For each 20 million of yearly gross, you’ll get one million and I’ll sell you the action for an upfront of 100 thousand. You decide how many blocks you want.”

“The one million is mine,” William’s mind spun around his wallet as he tried to calculate the return on investment—it was big, “and I pay the one hundred yearly.”

“No.” Romero watched as the lawyer scribbled the formula on his pad. “From each million, you get 600 thousand and I get four. The 100K is only a one time buy in and it’s only as a fair way to establish how much you’re coming in for.”

“If I bought in with two hundred thousand—” After a minute of pad scratching, the lawyer began a supposition but was cut off.

“That’s not even worth my operating expenses.” Romero gave a disappointed look. “Multiply that by five or there’s not much point discussing it further.”

“I’d need a partner to come up with that but I know someone trustworthy. Frank Thompson is like-minded to myself.” Watson immediately thought of his friend and gushed a fast résumé. “And he’s more than plenty of cajones as well.”

“Really? I think any more than two testes would feel like an uncomfortable cluster.” Like-minded to William, that was exactly the praise needed to include the doctor in the deal. “Even if Frank has a full billiards rack, I’ll still need to meet him and your friend should also sign onto the agreement when we do.”

“We’ll do the million.” The lawyer offered hopefully and looked for the response. “When can we begin?”

“This isn’t a start-up business.” The drug lord smiled. “I turn a tap and the cash starts arriving. The pertinent question is when can you arrange your end?”

They discussed the details for an hour and it was decided that the contracts could be signed on Friday night for the cash to start flowing on Monday. Given the nature of the transaction, it was more prudent to meet at William’s house and he would send his wife to Calgary for the weekend.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way.” Watson really didn’t know any other than badly but he had to ask. “Is there any method of confirming this?”

“As I see it, there are two ways.” The Columbian had expected this. “The first is you do the deal and have the money start pouring in. The other is for me to walk out the door. If it’s any consolation, for every dollar you’re trusting me with, I’m counting on you for six and my family are on the line for two hundred.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Watson couldn’t imagine a possibility of his contacting a Columbian drug cartel to check a reference.

“I have an idea.” Romero dug a coin from his pocket and set it on the coffee table. “I think I’m a good judge of character, so I’ll put my million on a coin flip. If it comes up heads—we do the deal with no upfront cash at all. If tails—I leave and find another partner. Shall we both risk it all on a fifty-fifty?”

“Are you serious?” William Watson stared open-mouthed. The one meant a multi-million dollar deal for no prepayment. The only downside was the other meant nothing at all. Then suddenly the lawyer realized: Romero was only risking one million and a couple of hours wasted. William would be putting up all or nothing, on ten million per year—it made the cash seem like chump change.

“Take the toss.” The young man dared.

“No,” for Watson, just the fact the Columbian was ready to take the chance, meant that he was on the level, “it’ll be as discussed.”

“You’re not a gambler.” The drug lord teased. “I’ve lost eight million in a casino on one night and had a blast doing it.”

“Eight million!” The amount was staggering.

“Think about it for a minute, though.” Romero explained. “I’m in the business of turning money legit. I lose the cash one night and it’s no big deal. I come back the next and lose the same and it’s no problem because when I do win, the casino pays with a check. The money is legal and that was my intent when I started gambling.”

“Can I come to a casino with you sometime?” Bill asked in a jest.

“Not unless you undergo a sex change operation and have an extreme makeover.” The Columbian joked but then his face grew wistful. “But speaking of someone who I would take anywhere—”

“As in my absent receptionist?” With his imagination’s view all but eclipsed by mountain of wealth, Watson had forgotten all about the girl. Half a million per month could set up housekeeping with a mistress ready to do it dictionary style, between mattress and Mr..

“I’m to understand Jessica is very close to becoming a partner in your firm. Where exactly is she in her apprenticeship?”

“I’ve probably procrastinated but I’ll correct that tiny oversight immediately.” The decision on that took only the time for Watson to think one phrase. ‘Dollars can sate my lusts but lust won’t bring me dollars.’ “Her internship papers will be signed off and sent by close of business today.”

“I expect Jessica will be suitably ecstatic about the news when I give it to her.” Romero doled out his statement with relish.

“If Frank and I find we are able to afford more units? I presume I could adjust the contract numbers to reflect actual amounts?”

“Yes, the river of cash flow my authority diverts is sufficient to float whatever sized boat you can push into the stream.” Romero confirmed then appeared to do a small mental double take. “And, you showed me your quality when you declined the fifty/fifty chance to get in free. I’ll reward you for that. Monies above the minimum million will buy double.”

“There’s a good incentive.” The lawyer watched his Columbian connection depart but the young man’s ambiance seemed to linger on with the acrid aroma of cigars. Watson moved to his desk and brushed the ash onto the floor. His eyes fell on his phone. The coin toss offer and then the story of the gambling had already sold him but there was still even one more proof available.

William opened his desk drawer and accessed a tape recorder. He didn’t understand Spanish but the overheard conversation’s tone comfortingly sounded exactly as he envisioned it should. Lawyer Watson even chuckled. It was rather vindicating to hear the forceful Romero as having to defer to someone with even more power. The eavesdropper’s cheek muscles were strained from having to hold up a smug grin through the entire listening. After replacing the cassette with a blank, he destroyed the evidence.


The Friday appointment meant Jessica had to be sequestered from Creston until then. It’s a gruesome assignment, but someone has to deal with it. Romero beamed all the way back to their shared suite where she was in the same delicious state that he’d left her in.

“How can a girl sleep the whole morning away?” The young man asked but there was no movement or response. He didn’t feel tired but thought to nap until the girl awoke. Romero stripped quietly and slid under the sheet—to find she really wasn’t slumbering at all.

“I’ve got a few days until my next meeting.” Romero noted later. “Why don’t we go to Calgary?”

“I need to go back home and pack my bag.” Jessica advised.

“Whatever for?” Reclined on his back, the young man looked askance arrogantly but it was intended as a tease.   “You’ve hooked into a wealthy guy.   Just coax me into buying whatever you want.”

“I’m not a gold-digger.” The girl wasn’t indignant but wished to stress that she wouldn’t be treated as less than an equal.

“I was eagerly looking forward to extensive mining operations.”

“My prospector is trekking to the bonanza.” Jessica marched her fingers slowly through sparse chest hair towards the belly.

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun,” Romero found Robert Service appropriate, “by the women who moil for gold.”

“If she finds there’s already a stake in the pay dirt,” Jessica’s eyes impishly looked at the golden destination: ‘haughtiness begs for naughtiness’, “she may just uproot it before jumping the claim.”


They checked out later in the afternoon and drove at a leisurely pace. There was no reason to rush and too much fun to have along the way. Stopping to overnight in the touristy town of Invermere, they took a swanky suite at a Rocky Mountain resort hotel. It was a much more luxurious hotel than the one in Cranbrook. Complete with a huge jacuzzi tub, they had more room to play.

With the morning dawning clear and blue, it promised to be a beautiful Indian summer day before the winter chill fully took hold. Romero brought a picnic lunch in a knap sack for a hike in the alpine above. They pulled the car off the road and climbed a trail up the mountain. Bighorn sheep had blazed the path on their way to lick the road salt from the highway.

The ascent took over an hour but they finally reached the level where the trees refused to grow. Two cradled arms of the mountain formed a sheltered glen of lichens, scrub brush and flowers. In the lee of an outcropping, there was little wind. The air was rarefied but the sunlight was warm and strong. A trickle of icy cold water off the permanently snow topped mountain collected in a small pool.

“This is beautiful.” Jessica surveyed the splendor of the vista. As far as the eye could see, the stone bones of the earth were as row upon row of jagged white shark’s teeth. She turned away from the view and was surprised to find Romero had pulled off his boots, socks and shirt. He was now working on removing his pants. “You are like a rooster in a flock of only one hen.”

“In my opinion,” the semi-nude man tried sounding sage, “there is only one way to maximize the utter enjoyment of nature. It’s not what is pecking and scratching in the filthy coop of your mind. My skin loves the sunshine and small breezes with nothing to muffle the sensations.” With an enticing grin, he added, “You can join me if you like. Suit, or un-suit yourself as you please.”

The last time Jessica went skinny-dipping was sometime in her early teens. It had been quite enjoyable then but she had matured since then. Yet, it was also sinfully fun and she didn’t want to be called a chicken.   To go him one better, the female bird plucked off her plumage with the flare of fan dancer.

When her burlesque show was finished, Jessica experienced thrills from the nippy gusts on uncovered flesh. She stretched out her arms and turned graceful circles, savoring subtle temperature changes from shade to sun on her exposed anatomy. Though only in her early twenties, the young woman felt like a little girl again.

“I feel so free and alive!” Jessica yelled to the empty mountain. Jumbled words echoed back and everything was perfect. Then she entertained a depressing thought and everything wasn’t quite so completely excellent: she was unemployed. This interlude was only a pleasurable respite between time wasted working for a jerk and starting an internship over in a new job.

“Why so glum?” He saw her suddenly pouting mouth.

“It doesn’t matter.” Jessica forced a fake smile and refused to allow that antique dork in Creston to intrude on her current bliss.

“If you won’t tell me willingly, I’ll tickle it out of you.” The young man slipped behind and gave her ribs a brief sampling of the torture she would have to endure until the inquisition was fruitful.

“I was just thinking about the stuff I’ll miss, after I move away from home.” She squirmed around to face him.

“So don’t leave.” Romero wished the interrogation had lasted long enough to retaliate for the claim un-staking episode.   “Now that you’re a lawyer, creepy Bill can’t push you around.”

“I told you that I’m not certified yet.”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” The young imp feigned forgetfulness. “I asked William about your current eligibility for advancement to the next level.” He nuzzled his face into her neck to whisper the rest in her ear. “Your boss signed the documents yesterday.”

“What?” Jessica pulled his face up to look at him.

“I was looking forward to telling you,” Romero’s eyes laughed, “but I must’ve forgotten while I was screaming in agony.”

“That seems like an awfully important detail to simply overlook.” She cocked her head slightly and examined him through squinted eyes. “I was there so I know exactly how much pain you were in.”

“Why did Bill sign my internship just because you asked him about me?” In addition to the gold panning, Jessica planned to start drilling an exploratory shaft for nuggets of information.

“Oh, thy bright eyes must answer now,” Emily Bronte 
had better words for weaseling out of a question, so Romero used hers, “when reason, with a scornful brow, 
is mocking at my overthrow. Oh, thy sweet tongue must plead for me, 
and tell why I have chosen thee.”

“Is the answer really in there?” Jessica chuckled. Romero fit the ‘tall, dark, handsome and mysterious’ phrase like it was written for him personally. Just now, those bright eyes she supposedly must answer were innocently blinking.

A last night in Calgary was sweet sorrow for Romero. This was definitely said better by Robert Frost but he couldn’t recite this one out loud. ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.’ That summed it up.

He made a promise to his father. There was also a debt owed to Cindy and the repayment precluded the probability of his seeing Jessica again. This time had been exhilarating for both but the love poem had to be a couplet instead of an ode.

Romero was reclined on his right side and Jessica on her left but they weren’t facing because heads were at opposite ends of the bed. He was behind.

“I never expected that I’d like long hair on a man.” The woman reached back with her foot to rake her toes, like fingers, up through his locks. Usually he wore it a ponytail but just now it was free.

“I didn’t know I’d enjoy sole food either.” The playful man licked the ticklish instep of her other foot. He also took three quick nibbles before she shrieked and curled her knees up.

“Can I ask you a few questions?” Jessica flipped around to a face on position. The length of his tresses wasn’t the only thing she liked—a lot. “I know we agreed not to talk business but I want to renege on that deal.”

The two had enjoyed many conversations about current events, childhood anecdotes, politics, and a wide range of topics. They just didn’t delve into Romero’s work or especially the affairs with William in Creston. At first, that was suitable but Jessica was growing very attached and aware that he was too. The taboo subjects seemed pivotal to where their relationship was headed.

“I have to wrap up some things tomorrow so I’ll take off in the morning.” Romero hated himself this but Jessica wasn’t supposed to be part of this plan. “Make a reservation at the nicest restaurant in the city and I’ll answer anything.” But I won’t be there to ask.

“Now I’m going to be stuck for what to do all day.” The girl was already eager for tomorrow night’s date.

“I could suggest going on a shopping spree with the nuggets in your sluice box,” the young man put guarding hands in front of the last previously targeted area, “but the mine shaft is still bruised.”

“Since I’m now a lawyer,” the smirk suggested that Romero was fortunate she was choosing to ignore the comment, “I suppose I can look at some cars before mine falls apart.”

“Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow.” After a tender last couplet that involved no words, Jessica thought of his being gone for the day but looked forward to reuniting. The young woman offered one of the few famous verses she knew. They were from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. “That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

Had the room not been dark, she would’ve seen sadness in the male lead to match the tragic play but it wasn’t acting. He was thinking the more apt line Juliet says just before those. ‘Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.’


In the early morning, Romero awoke, showered and dressed. He would leave his luggage behind so it would still appear he was coming back. Jessica was sprawled on her belly and the sheet was off her one leg. He gently kissed the tattoo on the small of her back then reluctantly, covered her up.

Jessica moaned softly, moved appreciatively and woke up a little. “Come here.” It was little more than a mumble. She craned her face back and got exactly what she was hoping for when he nuzzled in to kiss her neck too.

“I miss you already.” Jessica spoke after smacking her sleep dried lips. She took a satisfied breath and went back to sleep. Her next awakening could be expected sometime around noon.

“Never seek to tell thy love, 
love that never told can be. 
For the gentle wind does move
 silently, invisibly.” The words were only a whisper. Romero Escobedo tiptoed out of Jessica’s life, forever.

[Farewell for now, my star-eyed Shakti.]

“You just stick to being a god of destruction and we’ll be fine. I’m not extremely comfortable around women yet, so your Lord of the Dance aspect makes you Shiva the Distracter.” Romero muttered to his brain’s roommate. “Now I’m not sure if my making such a wonderful error was your fault or mine.”

Romero went to his mini-storage once again and selected a Ruger Mark Two with an integral suppressor. His thumb ejected the ten-shot magazine loaded with .22 caliber rim-fire rounds. The weapon balanced comfortably in his hand. With his loose-fitting suit jacket over his shoulder holster, the gun was almost invisible. He pulled out the weapon and aimed. The movement felt natural but he performed it several more times attempting to increase the speed. Gunfighter quick wasn’t necessary but efficiency was.

After leaving Calgary, he stopped in a secluded spot to fire off a few practice rounds. Page after page of a fashion catalog exploded as targets and male models suffered terminal head wounds as his neglected skills returned. The handgun recoiled only slightly and his muscles quickly learned to compensate. The built-in silencer made a sound: it wasn’t Hollywood spit but it was definitely quiet.

He continued until he was able to consistently hit five targets at a 5-meter distance with a double-tap each and empty his magazine within ten seconds. He could change clips and have another ten rounds ready easily within another five seconds.

“Okay.” Romero blew gun-smoke off the muzzle before sliding his pistol back under his arm. “Let’s see if Wyatt Watson and Doc Thompson are waiting at the Creston corral.”

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