“ ... I will have such revenges on you both,
I will do such things ... what they are, yet I know not:
But they shall be the terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep?
No, I’ll not weep: I have full cause of weeping; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or ere I’ll weep.”
Shakespeare King Lear II, iv,278
“Revenge should have no bounds.”
Shakespeare Hamlet iv, 7,128
This story is a response to the challenge by The Wanderer in his story “No Welcome Home: Sandra’s Story.” Please read his story first, otherwise this one won’t make any sense!
I have changed the locale from England to the USA. I gave it a stab to try to keep the flavor UK, but it became too complex. Some things had to change because of this, like Sandra using an airport instead of a train station.
The story is complete in this submission.
This is a substantial rewrite of “No Welcome Home—Before I’ll Weep.” In addition to significant editing, there is considerable new material. Besides the new parts, I had a ton of questions and suggestions from readers. I hope I have answered most of them.
In my original story, I missed a key point of the story by Denham Forrest (The Wanderer):
Andrew Swingfield, in his digging, found out this:
“Somewhat surprisingly, I found that Dave Lawrence seemed to have appeared out of thin air about eight years previous. Whether the guy had spent all his youth abroad or what, I could not find out. As far as I could make out, there seemed to be no record of him living in the UK before he bought the house that he now shared with Sandra. That really should have been a red flag for me, for if anyone tried to research my past they would find the same brick wall.”
I never accounted for this at all ... should have caught it.
In this rewrite, there is a new section called, “PART TWO—How did it all begin?” This provides the backstory of how Dave arrived in the Denver area eight years before this story takes place.
Please remember though, this is fiction. I remember the first time I read about infinity: it went something like, if you put a monkey in front of a typewriter and it typed forever, for infinity, it would eventually replicate Shakespeare’s writings letter for letter. (I seem to remember that it was “One Two Three ... Infinity” by George Gamow).
So, in one of the infinite alternate realities, this story could have happened exactly as written!
I am not removing “No Welcome Home—Before I’ll Weep” from the files. Feel free to go back, compare the two and let me know what you think.
I want to thank the editors: Black Rand, timothybil and Steve. They help keep the punctuation under control, and the story readable. Kudos!
Thanks for reading, Jake Rivers
To keep things straight
Prelude: Lead-in to Part Two—Dave living with his real name, Sam Carson; takes on an undercover name as Nic Rosso.
Part One: The story ending—Dave lives the good life as Carlos Zingada in Lisbon
Part Two: Backstory on Dave Lawrence—The first time Dave must “die” to continue living; Dave’s real name is Alex Samuele (Sam) Carson. His undercover name is Nicolo (Nic) Rosso. After hiding from the Mob in Sevilla for two years, he leaves Spain to live in Denver.
Part Three: The investigation of Sandra and Dave’s preparation to disappear
Part Four: Dave changes the plan—The second time Dave must “die” to continue living. He lives in San Sebastian, Spain, for a year, and surfaces in Lisbon as Carlos Zingada.
Epilog: Wraps up loose ends
I’d just finished my testimony in the US District Court in Manhattan, about halfway between the NY Police Department and Columbus Park. For a moment, there was a silence ... the type of quietly angry silence that portends violence and death. I started to rise as the crowd erupted in the closest thing to a riot that court had ever seen. People were shouting, unintelligible, an ominous roar. As I put my foot on the step down from the witness box, there was the sound of a high caliber pistol exploding and silencing the riotous noise.
At some unconscious level, I realized the shot had missed me, and I instinctively dove for the floor. The pandemonium had quieted from the shock of the loud gunshot in the confined space. The peace lasted for the smallest tick of a clock, then actually became a riot. Some of this I heard about later: people were screaming, frantic to get to the door and escape; fights started, with pushing and shoving injuring many people.
As the protection team grabbed me, I had a glimpse of several people fighting with a cop; his arm with the pistol held high as he was slipping to the floor, weighed down by the sheer number of people. Even as he was falling a couple of additional shots rang out and hit the ceiling. The guard around me, not knowing where the shots were going, jerked me hard, and pulled rapidly back towards the Judge’s chamber and the hallway to the back door.
I fought free and stepped close to Jim Phillips, the head of the team from The Special Operations Group (SOG) that was providing both the overall courtroom security and my personal security. He had been with me ever since I had been persuaded to go undercover with the mob in New York and New Jersey.
I yelled in Jim’s ear, “Shit, this is a clusterfuck! I’m running up to the roof. Have a helicopter pick me up there in ten minutes. They can take me to Fort Hamilton. A second copter can meet me there and take me on to Andrews. Hopefully, I can get an Air Force plane to Germany or somewhere in Europe.
“Get some guys and clear out the courtroom; have the limo in the back take off like hell. Hopefully, they will think I’m in it.”
I got the master key from Jim and ran up the stairs to the roof, locking the door behind me as I went through. I was trying to die as quick as I could, but the plan was shot to hell. It was a lot harder to die than I had ever imagined, or maybe easier and all too real!
PART ONE – This is the good part.
I was dead! In fact, this is the second time I’ve died.
I know that sounds strange. I guess it’s an oxymoron: you must be sentient to know anything and if you are dead you are not sentient. In other words, if I was dead how could I be aware of being dead?
Most people live their entire lives with one name. I’d had so many it was hard to keep them straight. Most people don’t have to run two times in their life, to give up family, possessions ... even their identity to ensure their heart keeps beating.
I was having uma bica (an espresso) at Café a Brasileira, the oldest and most famous café in Lisbon, with wooden booths, mirrored walls, and a long oak-paneled bar straight out of the 18th century. It is in Rossio, in the Chiado district of Lisbon.
What was strange is how much I was enjoying looking at the local girls, particularly Maria João O’Brien, who was walking towards me with a question in her eyes. As she approached, I started to ask her if the excitement I felt as I admired her quite charming young body was appropriate for a dead man. I wisely chose not to say anything as she asked, “Do you want outra bica, and are you coming over for dinner tonight?”
I said, “Yes,” and, “of course.”
I guess I should back up a little. Before I “died” I was known as Dave Lawrence, loving husband of Sandra, living in Colorado when I died. Now, I was Carlos Zinganda, known as Charlie, expatriate Spaniard from San Sebastian ... living in a comfortable apartment in Lisbon, in the Barrio Alto, on Rua do Norte.
I had met Maria about six months earlier there at the café. She was 28 at the time. Her Aunt owned the place, and Maria helped sometimes. She was an anomaly for a girl from Portugal. She was tall, a little over 5’10”. She wasn’t slim; maybe willowy was better. She weighed about 120 pounds, with gentle flowing curves rather than ostentatious ones. Long legs that won’t quit. She had (I guessed at the time; I really wasn’t an expert at this) 34B breasts that seemed to have an attitude. Her long legs flowed up into the most hauntingly beautiful derrière I had ever seen.
She had kind of dirty blond hair and fair regular features, with an upturned button nose. She was light skinned, with brilliant powder blue eyes and a few freckles around them (later I was to find she had freckles elsewhere). In other words, if you spent some time in Lisbon looking at the local girls and saw her walking toward you, she would stand out!
Maria was born on the island of Terceira, in the Azores. Her father was an American Tech Sergeant in the Weather Office of the 65th Air Base Wing at Lajes field. Her mother was a local girl and worked in the base library. They met, and, well, things happened: marriage and Maria following in short order. Her family moved around the world with her dad’s duty assignments until he was killed in a car crash in Fayetteville, North Carolina. At the time, Gary O’Brien was stationed at Pope Air Force Base and Maria was a junior, majoring in Marketing with a minor in Literature at Duke University.
After her dad died, her mom moved to Lisbon to work with her sister at the café while Maria João finished her studies. After graduating she joined her mom in Lisbon, working part time at the café and part time with a friend putting together a small agency for writers of romance novels (Bodice Rippers), working particularly on translations to and from various languages.
A year later, she met and married a football player (right half), who played for Sporting Lisbon. After they had a daughter, Catarina, his contract was purchased by Manchester City. Maria and the baby were to follow once he was settled, but he met a dancer and, (short story) he called her and said, “Don’t come!”
Maria was pretty broken up about this, but after a year she realized that her husband was just a happy jock who would still be a kid when he died. The writing agency did better than they expected and had signed up many writers from the US, Spain and Portugal, with a couple from France and Ireland. Some of these were for new books, but many were for books that were popular in their native language, but needed to be translated to another language to increase sales.
That brought me back to being dead and admiring Maria. She stopped by a couple of times that evening to chat, and when she finished I walked her home. As I said, I had known her for about six months. I probably would have not gotten anywhere with her, but once over coffee, she talked about needing writers for English. She needed translators, and was looking for new writers, also. Since I was fluent in Spanish, I started translating romance stories from the US, Australia and England. I did have a working fluency in Portuguese from my youth and my many visits to Portugal, but my accent was somewhat lacking. Hopefully living here full time would quickly correct that.
I told her that I had always wanted to write and thought it might be fun. I showed her the short stories and the one novel on which I had been working. That’s how it started. I began with the translations and then threw in a few romance novels (sheesh!) of my own. Through all of this, I started spending more time with Maria João and Catarina.
As we walked the few blocks to her apartment, she put her arm in mine and we chatted and looked in the Bakery windows for dessert. I was starting to feel pretty good until we stopped by her mom’s place to pick up Catarina, who was four. As we started climbing the stairs, the door opened and this whirling dervish came flying through the air screaming “Charlie! Charlie!”
I hadn’t been intimate with Maria, but it seemed we were getting close. She was lonely, but she was also very protective of her daughter. I fell in love with Catarina the moment I saw her. In my other life (Quiet! Someone will hear you), we never had kids—maybe if we had—anyway I really liked Catarina and she kinda took possession of me. One of the reasons I hadn’t gotten further with Maria was because her daughter always seemed to be between us.
I grabbed Catarina as I tried to keep from falling down the stairs and started tickling her. She squiggled out of my arms, giggling and running up the stairs to her grandma, Fia. We chatted for a little and then went to Maria’s apartment.
Maria asked, “Could you give Catarina her English lesson while I fix the dinner? We are having Bacalhau à Brás with a nice Vinho Verde with it.”
I had been working with Catarina for about two months with children’s books in English. She loved the stories and most nights when I was there, I would make up a story for her after her mom put her in bed. She would fight to stay awake, but always fall asleep after about five minutes. I think this was Maria’s secret plan in having me help with Catarina with her English!
While we were eating the cod, and enjoying the wine, Maria looked at me seriously for a minute and said, “We need to talk after Catarina goes to sleep.”
I thought, “Oh God! What did I do now?” I finished the meal with some trepidation, but I had no idea what she wanted to talk about. We sat around drinking coffee and enjoying a very nice vintage Tawny Port for a while as Catarina played with her toys. Maria got her daughter ready for bed and started cleaning up the kitchen while I told Catarina her story.
I was sitting on the sofa sipping another small port when Maria came in. “Can I sit down with you?” she quietly asked.
I opened my arms and she slipped into them as she sat on my lap. Not knowing what was going on I sat there without moving, my arms around her. After a minute, I could see her shoulders gently shaking. I lifted her chin and stared into her eyes. She was crying!
“Maria, what’s wrong!”
With that, she started sobbing. I just helplessly held her and waited for her to calm down.
After a bit, she looked up and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her blouse. She looked at me for a minute, quietly, and then buried her face in my shoulder. With a muffled voice, she whispered, “Charlie, I know you care for me, and the way you are with Catarina has been priceless for me. No, don’t say anything yet!”
“I’m lonely,” she whispered. “I want you; I want to be with you! Neither of us has said anything, but I think God wants us to be together. You are the answer to my prayers for myself and Catarina.”
“No, wait! I must get through this. I’m so happy with you but I haven’t been honest.” With that, she started sobbing again. After a bit, she continued. “I’ve told you about Paulo, my husband. Charlie, I’m Catholic! You know that. I can’t get a divorce and I can’t marry you!” She slid to the floor and her body just shook with her crying.
Stunned, I sat there for a minute. Marriage? Shit, I hadn’t said anything about that. I mean, Christ, I was dead! I couldn’t marry anyone. After a while, Maria quieted down and fell into a restless half-sleep. Looking at her, I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I picked her up, carried her into her bedroom and lay her down. I dampened a washcloth and gently bathed her face. She twisted restlessly, but didn’t wake up. I covered her up, and not wanting to leave her alone like that, I lay on top of the sheet next to her.
It took me awhile to get to sleep and I started replaying what had happened. I had not really thought about the problems of marriage. Her problem was easy, that’s just religion. Mine, jeez! I had a wife in jail, probably for life. If I were to try for a divorce, then obviously I wouldn’t be dead anymore. If I loved a woman enough to marry her, how could I live a lie and be a bigamist? Life is complicated when you are dead.
I woke in the first faint light of dawn to see Maria sitting in bed staring at me. Blushing violently, she asked, “Charlie, how did I get in bed?”
I looked at her for a minute; she was softly lovely in the early morning light. “Maria, you fell asleep in my arms. I carried you in and laid you under the covers. I was going to go to my apartment, but I couldn’t leave you like that. I lay down next to you because I just didn’t know what else to do.”
Embarrassed, she lay beside me and hid her face in my shoulder again. Christ, this was getting to be a habit ... not that I minded, of course.
After a few minutes, maybe ten, I put my arm around her and pulled her tight. “Maria, it’s my turn to talk. Just hush for a bit and let me talk now.”
I turned her head and gently brushed my lips against hers. Startled, I pulled back and had an epiphany! Jesus, God! I did love her. With all my being, I did love her!
Maria lay there looking up at me with a curious smile on her face. I kissed that lovely little smile, no blush now! I pulled her tighter and teased her lips open with my tongue. She lay, not moving, with her eyes closed. Suddenly she pulled back, opened her beautiful blue eyes and looked deep into mine. She saw something, for she suddenly jumped up and lay on top of me, violently kissing me.
She gasped, “Oh Charlie! Oh Charlie! God, I’ve been so lonely. Love me. Make love to me, even if it’s just for now.”
Later, I lay still and realized she was crying again, but as she looked up I saw it was “cry for happy.”
“Charlie, I don’t care what happens, I love you! I just want to live with you, love you. I need you. Catarina needs you. Love me now, please!”
I turned her over and slid off her gown. In the full dawn light, she was so lovely! We loved one another with a quiet passion until we heard Catarina moving in her room. Looking at me, she said, “Charlie, we have to talk.” This time she had a smile on her face.
We had our talk and a few weeks later, I moved in with her. After a time, I became a Portuguese citizen and a father to Catarina. I started working with her and her partner in her agency. I stopped doing translations and focused on writing romance novels. I was almost too successful. I used a nom de plume, a name you would well recognize: a woman’s name.
A couple of years later, we bought a nice apartment in Cascais, four or five blocks from the sea. We never again mentioned marriage, but frequently talked of our love. I was as happy as I’d ever been!
My time of darkness, my time of death was over; I was alive!
Life is good!
Oh! And my “loving wife,” Sandra? Would I ever cry over her?
Nah! I don’t think so!
Not! SHIT HAPPENS!
PART TWO – How did it all begin?
How did I die? Well, at least for the first time? That was a part of my life that only Jim Phillips knew about.
I was born in Italy. My dad was an officer in the 31st Communications Squadron, part of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Force Base, north of Venice. This was a NATO Base, so the fighter wing was part of the larger force. The year before I was born, my dad had met a girl working as a secretary at the base, from Udine. She was a tall lithe beauty and it took little time for them to become a couple. Her name was Antonia Chialina and within six months, they were wed. Less than a year later, I came along, adding the name Alex Samuele to my father’s family. In the casual way these things happen, I was called Sammy until I was about twelve or thirteen, and then it evolved to Sam.
My dad, Alex Carson, seemed to be transferred every two to three years—except for occasional TDY posts for training—mostly between posts in Texas, Arizona, Spain and Italy. I grew up speaking English, Spanish and Italian equally fluently, and with a more limited fluency of Portuguese. Whenever we were stationed at Moron AFB near Sevilla, we would take frequent trips into the Algarve, in Southern Portugal.
Mom and I would take regular trips to Udine, which polished my already native Italian. From the time I was born, Mom never spoke anything but Italian with me when we were alone. My Dad believed that my sister and I should go to local schools instead of the ones on post. He felt that it wasn’t just learning the language, but also the culture and history. These were always Catholic schools where we had to wear Uniforms ... which we invariably hated.
On one of the trips to Udine, when I was about ten or eleven, I spent more time with Mom’s nephew, Danilo Chialina. He was a couple years older than me, and taught me a lot. I learned from him how to swear in a way that would make a Naples dockhand blush. I learned how to fight, the street-fighting dirty way. I became skilled at making apples from the open-air market disappear. I became proficient, in a dirty way, at neighborhood brawls.
Then came the event that shocked my mom: I was escorted home by the Polizia di Stato after putting a kid three years older than I was in the hospital. We left the next morning and I never visited Udine again. My mother quickly convinced me not to use my enhanced vocabulary.
When I was 18, I started school at Texas A&M. I chose them because they had one of the best Air Force ROTC programs in the nation. From everything I’d seen with my dad, I had a lot of respect for the Air Force. Also, from spending a lot of time on base at many AF Bases scattered around the world, I was really impressed by the Air Police[PtC1], the AF equivalent of the Army MPs. I didn’t bother with sports; I was on a mission. I majored in International Studies and history, with a focus on Military History.
I worked hard on my studies and even harder on ROTC. I graduated with honors and accepted a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. I’d chosen the Air Force Police, which came with a four-year commitment. I enjoyed my time, did a good job and worked my way up to a Captain. However, when it came time to decide if I wanted to make it a career, I decided not to continue.
I had to do some mandatory separation training, and I asked to have it done at Lackland AFB, outside of San Antonio. I chose Lackland because I was familiar with it. The training covered being a civilian again: jobs, Veterans Affairs etc. In one of the last classes I was given a note to be at Base HQ after the class was over.
I was met at the front desk by an airman who led me to a secure conference room. I walked in and met Jim Phillips. At the time that I had no idea this meeting would have an impact on me, every day for the rest of my life. Jim was a senior manager in the Special Operations Group of the Marshal’s Service.
I was surprised when Jim introduced himself in excellent Italian with a hint of a Milano accent. For the rest of the interview, and through the years, every discussion I had with Jim was in Italian.
“Sam, I’m Jim Phillips. We, well actually, a collection of Federal Agencies, need you. Anyone with the languages that you have would do, but as far as we can find out, you have a unique skill set. [PtC1] You have experience as a leader, some undercover work, an outstanding knowledge of Italy and specifically, Italian with an accent of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in northeastern Italy. I understand you literally have a native accent. Is this correct?”
“Yes, Sir, but...” I asked with a decidedly perplexed look.
Jim sighed, “I guess there is no other way but to lay it out. I’m sure you know about the long history of the Mob in the Greater New York area. We’ve never been able to completely obliterate it, but the last few years it has toned down somewhat. Over the last two years, a new organization has popped up. It’s the Mala del Brenta, also known as Mafia Veneta (Venetian mafia) or Mafia del Piovese...”
I groaned, “Oh, shit!”
Jim chuckled and went on, “Yes, I guess you would have heard of them.”
“Well, the kid I put in the hospital—I assume you know about that—was a runner for them, and that led me to leave Udine. I’ve never been back.”
Jim asked, “Do you still know anyone there?”
“That was what, about sixteen years ago? No, just some remnant of the family. My mom tells me they have mostly scattered.
“Do you have any, umm, entanglements now?”
I laughed at that. “Sure, I’ve had a few ‘friends’ in the Air Force, but with fraternization rules and all, I certainly do not have any entanglements.”
“What about your folks?”
“My dad is in his last tour before retiring, two more years at Mainz AFB.”
“Would you be interested in helping us? We have our hands around the neck of one of the mid-range members of this gang. He will work with us to train someone on the organization and bring you into the mob under him. We’d start you at the dock for a couple of weeks and then you will help him in a fight. He will gradually bring you in and set you up.”
“How long are you looking at?”
“We figure maybe eighteen months. It will take some time to look across his organization.”
“What are they into?”
“Drugs, sex trade, murder for hire, extortion, kidnapping, just about everything. The key is that they are very violent. They’ll kill a cop, bystander, just about anyone.”
I laughed, “Oh, that’s not so bad, I thought maybe they were bad-asses or something.”
We got down to brass tacks, the details of what, how, when, who.
On his jet flying to Andrews AFB, I thought it over. I didn’t really like undercover, but it really came down to loyalty. I loved my country and hated to see it infected by vermin like this.
The overall team met as needed at a conference room on Andrews, in a fenced separate area just inside the gates. Jim was involved because the Marshal’s service provided protection for Federal Juries as needed, and in this case for my protection. DEA was there along with the US Attorney for NY, a contact for the NY Police Commissioner, Army 12th Aviation Battalion for helicopters as needed; and a few that never introduced themselves. Most of them had European accents. There were regular update meetings, but the place was mostly used for training.
I got slide shows of all the new Mob’s employees they knew about, who was where, what I would do, what information they needed, etc. Part of it was all the player’s roles in the Udine and Venice area of Italy. The focus was on the low-level grunts that I might be expected to know.
It looked as if the key was the snitch they “owned.” I was to spend a week with him, going over process, and how to bring me in. One minor hitch: when Jim walked Antonio Duca in to introduce him to me, I ‘bout shit a brick! Antonio was my cousin Danilo Chialina. Most people wouldn’t recognize each other after that much time, but after that long hot wild summer ... it was instant.
Walking into the conference room, he looked confused, then shocked. As Jim turned to take his arm, I quickly did a “no way in hell do you know me” look and shook my head quickly. He recovered and we talked it over for a couple of hours. At the end, Jim looked at Antonio and suggested, “Why don’t you take Nicolo out for a few beers, get to know each other?” Nicolo Rosso was my new name for this exercise.
We got to the bar, a rundown sorta place with sticky floors, and servers that came by only when you raised your arm and waved it with increasing irritation until a server came by. We got a pitcher of beer and a couple of questionably clean glasses ... well, really, there was no question.
“Holy Shit, Sammy, it shook me up when I saw you sittin’ there.”
“Hey, Antonio, I’m Nicolo, get with the game!”
“Scusi, Nic!” He smiled at me for a minute. “I always liked you; you had guts. I never forgot when you kicked that testa di cazzo (dickhead) so hard he was in the hospital for a week. Look, we gotta work together on this. I’m inna tight place. I’ll take care of you, watch your back.”
We talked, drank beer, played old-home-week.
Jim gave me the final overview. “We will give you a generous allowance to “take” care of your new friends. When this is over, we must kill you! Ha, ha! You should see your face. You do realize you can never use your name again. When this is over, we will get you a new ID and hide you somewhere for a couple of years. After that, you will get another new ID and you can come back to the States, but never to the Northeast. We will be generous during the settlement time and will set you up with a very large amount of money in a Swiss safety deposit box. This is not taxpayer money, but money we have taken from the Mob and are putting it to a better use.”
He went on with rules of engagement, “Try not to kill any civilians; the paperwork is unbelievable! If you are asked to take out a mob figure, be my guest. You will probably need to do some enforcing: bills to loan sharks, numbers, protection ... you know the drill. As much as you can, just try to hold off just a little.
“Gain 30 pounds as quickly as possible, let your hair grow, grow a mustache, not a beard. We will get you some flashy clothes. We can do something to your nose to change the profile; they can fix it later or, if you want, you can just keep it. He laughed, and said, “But it might be a little bit crooked.”
I did what I had to. It took sixteen months to gather the evidence. It was over a year of hell. I did things I was proud of, and things I was ashamed of for the rest of my life. The trial lasted for six months before it came time for me to testify. This testimony was the end result of all the crap and danger I’d put up with. The more time I had spent with this gang, the surer I was that I had done the right thing. I spoke to the jury clearly, conviction in my voice, wanting them to understand what was at stake. The jury seemed entranced with my story; I could see they were feeling the love.
When I finished there was s dead silence, as if everyone were holding their breath. Then, as I stepped down from the witness box, all hell broke loose.
Jim met me at Andrews. I laid it out straight.
“I think the documentation is still good, but I want to change the itinerary. You still have my original ID?” He nodded. “Good, get me an Air Force uniform that fits and I’ll fly on an Air Force plane to Brussels. Just another low-level courier going to NATO, a dime a dozen. I’ll take a taxi to a hotel, dump the uniform, destroy my original life, and take a train to Frankfurt using the new Spanish ID. I’ll rent a car, and drive to Munich and on to Madrid by train.
“I’ll stay there for a few weeks, buy a car and drive to Sevilla. From then on, it’s the original plan. You come to Sevilla with new ID in a couple of years, and then I’ll go back to the United States with my final ID, as Dave Lawrence. I plan on flying to Dallas and I’ve decided on Colorado for a permanent home.”
Jim gave me the IDs, the key for the lockbox in Zurich, a hefty wad of Euros, and gave me a big hug. “I don’t know how to thank you for all you’ve done. You have helped America but I’m afraid there is no way to give you that recognition. I’ll do all I can to make your life comfortable, and if you ever need to get hold of me use the method we discussed.”
I stood up to leave and he handed me a newspaper clipping from the Miami Herald:
Sam Carson, famous as a witness during a recent mob trial in New York, was killed in a boat accident about twenty miles south of Marathon, Florida. The Coast Guard reports it was a vintage Chris Craft 28’ Cabin Cruiser. At the time, there is no conclusive explanation for the fire and explosion. While there was no body found, a leather briefcase with documents in Carson’s name and what was described as a large amount of money were found in the wreckage. There have been no statements from any government agency. We will publish more as facts become available, other than this one from the Coast Guard.
I wound up in Madrid for six months. My health was the shits. All the weight I had to gain, the high cholesterol from all the Italian restaurants, no exercise. I joined a local sports club and started exercising. I really cleaned up my eating habits. As I said, I had cut out fast food cold turkey. I lost twenty pounds in the first four months. As I lost weight, I gradually replaced my clothes with a more European look.
I moved to Sevilla, where I planned on staying for some time. It was a nice town. I fit right in; it was a lovely place to live with a good climate. This was in Southwest Spain, close to the Mediterranean and not far from the Algarve area of Southern Portugal. There were days that I felt like staying there and not going back to America, but the US was home and it pulled on me in a melancholy way. I had comfortable lodging, the food and wine were world class, and I occasionally found some friends with very nice benefits. I never felt that one of the ladies I met—and they were all ladies—was anyone I wanted to be with for a lifetime. I had strong feelings about matrimony and I wanted to wait for the one!
I never really felt lonely. There were two different women from England that were both spectacular. One was buying oranges (the English love their Orange Marmalade made with Sevilla oranges) and the other, sherry (the English also dearly love sherry). And the secretary at the Italian Consulate ... she was, how should I say, delizioso.
I drove over to Portugal a few times, working on my Portuguese and enjoying the backcountry. The Algarve, centered on Faro and trendy Albufeira, is solid tourist along the coast, but ten miles inland, it is a quiet, almost sleepy area of farms and small towns. A couple times I went on up to Lisbon. The food was as good as in Spain, but there were some different trends, which made it interesting.
I also enjoyed driving around the places nearby. Southeast from Sevilla is Malaga, and straight south is Jerez de Frontera, the main area where sherry is made. I had many quiet afternoons idling around some rural Bodega, sipping the best of the sherries and enjoying quiet conversations. It was pleasant on the hot days to rest in the coolness of the ivy covered stone buildings.
Then came the time to go home. Jim came, and over a magnificent dinner, we agreed that I was well and truly dead. That was an incredible relief for me. He gave me my final papers and I was ready to go home. At the end, he gave me bad news.
“I’m sorry, but they got to Antonio. He was safe in a suburb of Phoenix, but got the gambler’s itch and drove to Las Vegas. Someone recognized him, and his body was found in the desert a few days later. Even if he was forced to talk, there are no links to you.”
He took off and later that night I sat out on the balcony, looking up at the starry sky. The glass of sherry was giving me no joy as I remembered the number of times Danilo had put his life in danger to save mine. It made me reflect that I had to be ever vigilant, and that it was time for me to settle down and get married with a house in the country. I was Dave Lawrence and I was going home.
It took a couple days to wrap things up, such as the flat, a car I was leasing, and closing out the bank accounts. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone. Just took a taxi to the train station and took the train to Lisbon. I didn’t want to go through New York, so I flew to Heathrow in London and then direct to Dallas. After a short layover, I took the final flight to Denver.
After Jim had visited me in Sevilla, he had opened an investment account and an online checking/savings account at one of the major national banks in Denver. With no address, he used a PO Box in the Denver Post Office. I had logged in to both accounts to make sure all notices and statements were sent electronically. In any case, I would clear out the PO Box as soon as I got to Denver.
On the long leg over the ocean, I started trying to get used to the name Dave Lawrence. I thought about the four novels I’d written while in Sevilla. Jim had suggested writing to earn money for the future. Even though I had ample money, people might ask questions if I never worked. I’d thought about it and decided to start writing. I felt my work was good (with proper editing[scm2]!)[SJC3] to publish. After I finished the second book, I went back and looked at the first and basically rewrote it.
The same thing happened with the third book: I went back and made major changes to the first two. After that, it seemed easier; I could write consistent stories. My particular bane was punctuation ... a pox on it all. The Romans had it right: LATINJUSTRUNSTOGETHER WITHNO PUNCTUATIONNOTEVENASPACEORLOWERCASE.
I settled in Denver in a rental near the Denver Tech Center. I liked the house and talked to the owner about buying it. We worked it out and I gradually started remodeling, replacing all the flooring with hardwood, new appliances and furniture, and having the yard redone. I had the contractor rip out the bath and replace it with a large walk-in shower with clear glass walls. Not that I’d need it, but a group of four would have fit in easily.
I wasn’t exactly looking for a wife, but I was craving some regular companionship. I took some dance lessons, including some on Western Swing, which seemed to be popular in Denver.
I asked around and got a referral to an agent for my writing. I met with her, and got good vibes. I left her with the first story, and on her recommendation, started making outlines for future stories. I liked the idea, because I could take each character and see how I wanted it to change it over time.
A couple of days later, my agent, Ginger Simms (the ginger was a nickname because of her red hair), called and asked, “Do you have any more books ready?”
“Yeah, I’ve got three more, and a start on a fifth.”
“Have you started on the outlining?”
With a bit of excitement in my voice, I replied, “Sure. It’s been a great help. I can see this character working for about ten books, altogether. As I get time, I’ll look at a new character, line out an environment, and start outlines for the next book series.”
Ginger replied, “Great, can you bring the other three books in, along with your outlines? I’ve found a publisher that really likes the book and is ready to give a nice advance check. This is a package deal; they do the editing, work with you directly on fixes, they are very interested in a long-term arrangement.”
“That sounds really good, but I don’t need the up-front money.”