I awoke to the familiar sounds of a hospital. The constant "beep beep" of a heart monitor, the smells of disinfectant, the soft noises. I tried to open my eyes but nothing happened. I tried to move and found I couldn't. I tried to open my mouth to call out and found I couldn't move. It was as if I was paralyzed.
I lay there and just listened. Soon I was able to discern the small sounds of someone else in the room near me. There was no way possible I could do anything to attract her attention. All I could do was lay there. Yes, it was a her; I could smell the faint scent of hair spray and perfume. I began to be able to pick out the sounds of her sobbing. I hope it wasn't for me.
Hell I was 93 years old and it was probably my time to go.
I heard another person enter the room, "How's he doing? Any sign of recovery from the stroke?" asked a female voice. It sounded like a professional so I assumed it was a nurse.
"Nothing, he just lays there," another female voice offered.
"Well I need to do some work on him. I'll un-tape his eyes and put some more drops in them. He can't blink so we must keep his eyes moist," said the professional voice.
My heart leaped. Maybe I could look around if my eyes were free. I felt the tape carefully removed and my eye lids opened by a pair of fingers in latex gloves. When my eyes adjusted to the bright light I found I was staring at a white ceiling. I couldn't look around.
A pleasant face appeared in my line of sight. "Ok dearie, I'm going to shine a light in your eyes and see if we can get a reaction. So if you want to show us anything, now is the time."
The second female voice asked, "Any reactions?"
"At first I thought I might have seen something, but I can't get him to repeat anything. I guess it was just hopeful feeling on my part."
Another face appeared in my field of view. This one I recognized. It was my daughter. "I don't know but I feel there is still something behind those eyes. When I look in them I feel that he's looking back at me."
"Listen honey, I'll leave the tape off his eyes for a while if you promise to put some drops in his eyes about every 15 minutes."
I lay there wishing with all my heart and soul that my daughter would move back into my field of view.
My mind drifted back over the intervening years to when I was reunited with my daughter.
There I was standing in a pew at the back of a church with two of my guys. We were waiting for my estranged daughter to walk down the aisle as the star attraction of this wedding. It had been 10 years since I saw her. I had never stopped missing her.
Let me step back into time to explain how I got here.
My wife (at the time) disappeared with my kid. At first I thought one of my enemies had snatched them. While this type of behavior was not accepted by my compatriots of organized crime, there were elements from South America who did not share our noble beliefs.
Every time they appeared in our territory, we dealt with them, permanently. They kept trying and we kept returning their emissaries to them, in pieces. It was time to teach them a lesson now that my wife and child were missing.
I assumed that they wanted a war. And I was prepared to give them one. I assembled an "expeditionary force". Well that's what they called it in the 1800's. I got my guys, a few other family friends, and some mercenaries to join me. Our targets lived in a remote village in Columbia. Everyone in that village was a member of the drug cartel that ruled the area. Even the local Catholic Priest was dirty.
I'm not going to go into details here. All I'll say is that a little over 200 men, women and children died there. They were punished for my wife and daughter. The message was sent. I was on the war path.
Almost one year later that I got a phone call.
"Mr. Hammer?" the female voice asked.
"I'm Tommy 'The Hammer' Migdol, not Mr. Hammer. What the hell do you want?"
"I'm sorry sir, but I was asked to give you a message." She replied with a soft Spanish accent.
Before she was able to continue I yelled, "I'm a very busy man. What makes you think I'm interested in your stupid message anyway?"
"It's about your wife and daughter."
That slowed me down a little. But I was right back on the offensive with the next breath. "My family is dead. They were killed by a Columbian drug lord."
"No sir, they weren't killed by anyone. Your wife ran away with her boyfriend and took your daughter with them. They were afraid of your temper if she asked for a divorce."
I lost it. I threw the phone across the room and started screaming at the top of my lungs for my #2. A whole village in Columbia died because of that stupid bitch. By the time my #2 got me settled down, I realized that I had not stayed on the phone long enough to get any information.
My #2 started calling around to find someone to "peek" into the phone companies records to determine where the mysterious call came from. As they tried, I was pacing about the room just being a royal pain when my cell phone rang.
"Yeah!" I answered. I guess I wasn't very polite.
The same soft voice with the Spanish accent was on the other end. "Mr. Migdol? We were cut off?"
"Yeah I'm him and we were sort of cut off."
"May we continue our conversation?"
My #2 started recording the call somehow.
"Please do. I would like to find my wife and daughter."
"Call me Tommy. All my friends do."
"Tommy. My boss would like to be your friend after what you did to the Cruz Cartel. He worked very hard to find your wife. At first, it was just to supply you with their location so you could arrange for a decent burial. But as his inquiries progressed, he could find no one responsible or any indication of their fate until they were found still alive in California."
"Why would he want to do this for me?" I asked.
"You sent a message with your treatment of the Cruz Cartel. My employer wishes to avoid the same treatment. He would like to have your permission to call you 'Tommy'"
She and I talked for the next twenty minutes as she brought me up to date. When the conversation ended, I had a name, address and phone number for my wife. She and her boyfriend were still living in California.
"My employer would like to meet with you. California is a state that he has many friends living in. Would it be possible for you to meet with him?" She asked.
We agreed upon a date and a spot in Las Vegas. Vegas was considered neutral ground for all the crime families. Two weeks later my #2 and I were on a flight bound for Nevada. We had an advance contingent there already. They were sent to "just look around".
I didn't really trust anybody.
My #2 and I got off the commercial flight and were met by a very attractive woman. She was about 5'4" tall. She was wearing a dress that showed off all her assets tastefully. The dress wasn't too tight, too short, or overly colorful. Looking at her I could almost forget why I was here in Vegas.
"Mr. Migdol? I'm here to be your guide. May I help you get settled in your rooms and escort you to dinner? There we will discuss what plans my father has for the meeting." That same soft Spanish accented voice stated.
'My father' I picked out of her greeting. "If she really was his daughter, he was showing his trust in me for her safety." I thought.
Her driver retrieved our luggage and loaded it in the limo. It was Vegas and the weather was around 100 degrees. The three of us waited in the air conditioned limo as the driver stored the luggage. My #2 examined the crowds milling around. He spotted four of our advance troops in the throng. He also spotted twelve South Americans of suspicious purpose.
He asked, "Hi my name is Gino and I'm Tommy's #2. May I ask your name?"
"I'm Maria, Gino. It's a very common name from the area I grew up in."
"Maria," I began, "It is very trusting that your father sent you, his daughter, to meet us. It would have been even a greater gesture if it wasn't for all his men in the area protecting you."
She looked at me and softly began laughing. "Tommy, this will be fun for you and me. You spot my father's men and my driver spotted about four of yours. I propose a truce. Let's just get acquainted."
That night over dinner, she and I became friends. Gino and her driver/bodyguard ate at another table. They looked as if they were actually getting along. Maria and I were impressed. I learned about the village she called home with her father and two younger brothers. We talked until almost midnight. I was still on east coast time, so I was the one that petered out first.
As she escorted me to the elevators she whispered, "If you like, I will spend the night in your room. That way I will be your hostage. I will be a very co-operative hostage." And then she smiled that smile all women can produce. I could really get to like this woman.
"Maria, I love your offer, but I fear that your father might object. I know if you were my daughter I wouldn't like you spending the night with a strange man."
She faked a pouty look on her face and gave me a goodnight kiss on the cheek.
The suite was very comfortable but I still had trouble falling asleep that night. Part of the problem was the paranoia caused by meeting a stranger outside of my comfort zone. Part was the anger I felt for my wife and her desertion of me, and finally I was confused by my feelings for Maria. Maria appeared to be the perfect daughter and companion, but my survival instincts warned me that she might not be what she appeared.
.... There is more of this story ...