Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis – Chapter 22

Republisher’s Note: This chapter includes a reference to a famous old fort in Puerto Rico. There is no official word, but I’m fairly sure – since they share an identical sounding name – that it inspired the name of the fictional country of San Cristobal.

Author’s Note: Well take a guess what is getting close to happening soon and I hope you enjoy our trip to Puerto Rico! I want to thank all those that have sent multiple e-mails and encouraged the story development. There is many more twist and turns. Manny will have some fun and as in the original story they will continue to do some activities backwards.

Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis – Chapter 22

Carmen and Abuelá waited for the couple to return for dinner. They saluted each other with the progress of the day. Tomorrow, the jet would leave the airport in Springfield for Puerto Rico and two weeks of rest and relaxation. The journey home to the island was always welcomed but this time even more so because another Santos wedding was taking place. The only sadness was that Mick Santos wouldn’t be able to join the family. His last arrest in San Juan had cost the family in more ways than one but the immigration officials had warned of severe consequences if he ever returned to the island. He had a severe drug problem and the alcohol use hadn’t helped. Too many treatments in plush centers hadn’t worked. The Hazelton center in Minnesota was the last site where Mick had signed himself in to leave as soon as he began to feel healthy again. All the counselors had said the same thing; Mick wasn’t ready to stop using the mind-altering drugs. The family had been accused of not letting him hit rock bottom. Carmen wanted Danny to call Mick and tell him about the wedding. She feared this would send Mick over the edge again and they never knew when the call would come confirming a final overdose.

Danny had a knack of being able to communicate with Mick. Carmen wanted Danny to invite Mick to the grand reception in Springfield. Maybe Danny’s wedding to Michelle would spark an interest in Mick to want to settle down and clean up his life. Mick had been surprised when Carmen had told him that he lacked the leadership to lead the Santos family. When the other families approved of Danny; Mick saw Danny had lost any respect for him because he chose drugs over the family. The rule of operation was Mick could come to Casa Santos if he was clean.

Danny and Michelle returned with Christina to the Santos mansion on High Ridge Road. Christina finished the adjustment marks on Abuelá’s dress and packed the lace into her workbag to have the lace dyed to match the dress. Carmen spoke with Christina privately about the peignoir for Michelle. Christina planned to send the peignoir separately and to the attention of Carmen Santos in Puerto Rico. Smiling to her, Carmen made a few mental notes about the preparation for the villa and the wedding night activities.

After Christina left the mansion, the family sat down for the late dinner. Carmen asked Michelle if she was pleased with Christina?

“Very much, she is able to work in a creative manner and yet be very personal. The suggestion of using material from my mother’s dress for my dress was sweet and considerate.”

“Speaking of being considerate, Danny and I need to discuss his older brother Mick’s arrangements. It will be boring to you Michelle and can I suggest you can rest in Danny’s old bedroom. You can explore the grounds here with Dietz if you like.”

“Mamá, I think Michelle has earned a rest for the night this has been an emotional day for her. When we have finished eating, I’ll give Michelle the tour of the house and get her settled in my room.”

After walking through the main quarters and the outside formal garden, Danny guided Michelle down the hallway to the section of the mansion where Danny’s old bedroom still existed.

“Danny, I’ve got to ask did your mother decorate this house by herself?”

Laughing at Michelle’s question, Danny whispered to Michelle. “Carmen did this all by herself. Do you think any interior designer would have done this as an example of their work and have this on public display? Wait till you see my old bedroom, it looks like a room from the days of King Arthur.”

“Danny, I didn’t think Martha Stewart had been here,” giggling to herself.

Danny opened the door to his room where Michelle saw the ornate bedroom furniture. “Carmen is fond of pillows since I see more than a few on the bed. The room is large and you have a fireplace with a mantle most people would die for in their living room.”

“Michelle, you can see why I wanted the house at the lake to be simple and bare.”

“The best thing in the room is the bed.”

“The bed is a good bed and tonight we can discover how good a bed it really is for two. Honey, you wait here and rest.” Handing her a TV remote, Danny kissed Michelle passionately on her lips. “I don’t know how long this meeting with Carmen will be, she wants to talk about Mick. It may be late so why don’t we plan on spending the night here.” Danny left the room after Michelle had crawled into the bed and rested against a pile of the pillows.

“Michelle, you haven’t taken off your clothes for bed.” Danny was lying next to her in just his boxers when she awakened from the much-needed rest. Yawning and stretching her arms out and holding Danny’s head in her hands, “What do you have on your mind? His face above hers, Danny nibbled at her nearest ear and over to Michelle’s lips. “Checking to see if this body is Michelle’s body.”

“Danny, is it Michelle’s body.”

“The ear and lips is Michelle’s. I have to examine the other body parts to see if they belong to Michelle which means the sweater and jeans have to go.” Danny unbuttoned the sweater to expose Michelle’s pink and black lace bra. Running his wet tongue down in between the cleavage of her full bosom, he unfastened Michelle’s bra to begin his exploration of her body. The intensity of the exploration was heating up when Danny’s cell phone rung. “Damn!”

Michelle whispered in her purring voice, “Don’t answer it.”

“I’ve got to answer it…..Santos speaking.”

Michelle waited as Danny listened to the call. “Mick, the decision is final. You can not come to Puerto Rico unless you want to sit in a prison for years. The family will want you at the reception in Springfield if you are sober and clean. Mick, we all care for you but you have got to respect yourself and the family……..Michelle Bauer is her name…..Mick, you are smart and right.” Laughing at his brother’s response, “She is not Latina….At the reception, you can ask her yourself….Mick, remember sober and clean….Bye.”

“Danny, does your brother have an addiction problem?”

“A major problem…The meeting with Carmen was about Mick and letting him know about the wedding. Mick can’t come because of his last trip to PR was a disaster. He got caught buying a shit load of cocaine and heroine. Our contacts on the island got him out of jail with a deportation order which stimulates a no return order. Carmen wants him to come to our reception here. Michelle, you heard the rest.” Danny rolled over to his back to rest.

“Danny sounds like we have something in common with a relative addicted to a substance which can destroy their lives.”

“I don’t know all your father’s history but I do know Mick’s. He has had many chances to turn his life around. Mick’s maturity level is stuck at a sixteen year old when he began to use drugs. He looks like a grown man and today, he can’t balance a check book. Mick got caught up in the movie mob scene and thought everybody was going to respect him because of his name. He had trouble in school learning and after my father died he turned to drugs to solve all his emotional problems. Mick saw the drug crowd as a safe place to hang out. Mick started dealing and eventually he became his own best customer. Theresa and Mick use to go to NA meetings together and then go outside and use. Both are capable of manipulating the Pope, you can’t trust either. Carmen is afraid that Mick will do something crazy like come down to Puerto Rico for the wedding. I called a friend in Chicago tonight. The friend found Mick so I was expecting a call but not this early.”

“Michelle, I always want to give you all of my attention when I am with you. Our love making got interrupted by the call. I’m sorry,” wrapping a strand of her hair around his finger. The deep dark mystery eyes starred at the face above his face.

“Danny, I will be with you for a lifetime of nights but Mick won’t from the history you have told me. Mick is one overdose from dying or getting killed in some stupid drug induced haze. Danny, I’ll be right back. I feel a little queasy.”

Michelle left the bed and returned with a towel wrapped around her nude body. The sly grin on Danny’s face showed Michelle that the lovemaking was still on as she knelt on the bed. “I see a beautiful woman dressed in the MICHELLE NUDE COLOR knelling on my bed.”

“Danny, is this beautiful woman Michelle?”

Pulling the towel loose from her nude body, Danny spoke of certain parts that where definitely Michelle’s personal parts. “The eyes are Michelle’s.”

“Wait you know the eyes, ears and mouth are Michelle’s but how about the other body parts?”

Looking at her nude body with a sneaky up and down the body review, Danny whispered to Michelle in his all ready excited voice that all parts were Michelle’s. “This time we are not going to have any intrusion.” Danny switched the cell phone to off and pulled the cord from the bedside phone. “Where were we when the call came?”

“You don’t remember, Danny!”

“I think we are further along as I recall.” Grinning at Michelle’s naked body and the enjoyment ahead for the night, Danny and Michelle fell back down onto the bed to begin the conclusion of their sexual arousal together.

Michelle giggled as Danny wet tongue grazed behind one ear and down to her shoulders. Stopping briefly, Danny asked Michelle why she was giggling? “Your thumbs are pressing into my sides and I’m ticklish.”

“You are the first woman to comment that my thumbs are a seductive tool.”

“I didn’t say that but your thumbs are useful in massaging certain body parts.”

Moving his hands up to Michelle’s underarms, Danny ‘s thumbs pressed into the sides of her breast. “Are you still ticklish?”

“No.”

“Michelle, I aim to please,” his tongue moved over to one of her breast where his mouth opened to receive her enlarged nipple. The suckling continued on one breast while the other breast was massaged and the nipples became firm and erect. Michelle’s finger’s pushed thru Danny’s curly hair and down to his muscular shoulders and back. The suckling stopped and Michelle waited for Danny’s next move. Smiling at her, his wet lips and tongue came up to her lips. Their tongues met and began the sensual dance over the others tongue. Danny pressed his mouth down on to Michelle’s lips as the other held their heads close to the other. Michelle’s hands slid down Danny’s side to his boxers. Slipping her thumbs under the elastic, Michelle pushed the material off of Danny’s buttocks. She lifted up her foot to the edge of the garment and hooked her toes in the boxers to remove the item from Danny’s body.

“I want you, Danny.”

“Now?”

“Yes, I want you now inside of my vagina.”

Grabbing one of the pillows, Danny asked Michelle to pick up her hips and he slid it under her buttocks. He lay in between her legs after Michelle opened her legs for him. Danny lifted one leg then the next over his shoulder. The pressures of his penis entering her vagina was different this time and the nerve sensation penetrated into the lower perineum area and up into her legs causing her legs to jerk with each of Danny’s rocking motion. The ejaculated fluid running from her vagina and Danny’s wet chest resting on her breast was the physical evidence of their love making. Danny pushed his body up and off of Michelle. Lying on his back, he reached for Michelle.

“I love you, Michelle Bauer. Are you ready for tomorrow?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Tomorrow, you and I begin a trip together. I had planned on a honeymoon to a special place with just you and me. I made the plans a couple of weeks ago and we are going to have to go as planned. The first days in Puerto Rico, you can find a church for the wedding and we can go to the beach and hang out in old downtown San Juan.”

“Danny, are you telling me that we are going on a honeymoon before we actual get married?”

“Yes, we have done a lot of things different don’t you think? We have two babies coming, a honeymoon, a wedding and then two receptions. The wedding dress has created its own diversion and we will enjoy the island while we wait for it to arrive.”

******

The two black limousines pulled thru the Private Gate entrance at the airport. The first limousine parked close to the steps and the three women emerged from the back seat with Dietz holding the door for them. Pillar and Carmen went up the steps followed be Abuelá being assisted up the steps with Dietz at her side. Dietz returned to the ground to speak with Danny’s lieutenant Jimmy for the final instructions. Jimmy opened the door for Danny and Michelle and walked to the trunk of the car to get the luggage and the boxes of Michelle’s medical books. Danny followed Michelle up the airplane steps with her laptop computer in his hand and his own brief case.  Danny came back down the steps to tell Jimmy that Michelle wanted her books inside the passenger area instead of down below in the storage bend. Danny checked his watch to see if they were on time because he wanted to take Michelle out that night. They would be traveling thru two time zones and the island didn’t participate in daylight saving time.

“Jimmy, I will see you and Ray towards the end of the week. The European contacts have already started their search. They will contact you in SF. and you know the routine. Dietz will take care of Carmen’s security in Puerto Rico. Our Puerto Rican men will be responsible for Pillar and Abuelá when they travel.”

“Danny, I wish I was a bird in the forest the next couple of days. This is one time that you should have spoken with me before you spent all the money on the trip. Michelle is going to be hopping mad at you and you will barely be back a day before the wedding. Boss, a husband and wife use the time to make love on their wedding night. Michelle will kick your butt out of bed and you will be sleeping on the sofa with a bottle of rum. When you two get back to the villa, be sure to warn the boys about Michelle’s little feisty mouth.”

“Well, Jimmy wish me luck.”

Danny left the two lieutenants talking over the final details of the trip.

“Jimmy, the boss is actually smiling. Danny-boy must have gotten to bed early last night.”

“Dietz, you should know since you keep Carmen warm at night when she allows you into her room after midnight. I wasn’t disrespecting the boss.You know how moody Daniel can be sometimes.”

“For your information, Danny was in the sack early with Michelle. They do make a nice looking couple.”

“Michelle was sweet looking in that short pink sundress. When do you think the boss is going to stop her from wearing those little sexy numbers?”

“Dietz get your old dirty mind out of the gutter. All the women in the household are beauties and Michelle is going to turn some heads in Puerto Rico.”

“Well Dietz, this isn’t your problem, the security in Puerto Rico will handle Danny and Michelle until I get there. Michelle is a good match for Danny. The next couple of years are going to interesting ones.”

“What are you talking about, Jimmy?”

“Dietz, Michelle isn’t going to be like the Santos women. Michelle is a modern age woman.  She will have her profession and her own family. Danny is going to have his hands full trying to stay ahead of her.”

“Jimmy, what is wrong with the Santos family that all the women are strong and from what you are indicating Michelle is even stronger?”

“It has to be some hereditary trait that the Santos men only marry strong women.”

Carmen was at the top of the steps calling for Dietz to come aboard the plane and the two lieutenants saluted each other as Dietz ran up the steps of the plane. Jimmy watched the plane back out onto the tarmac and saw the plane lift off the ground bound for the tropical paradise.

******

Fletcher Reade parked his car in the Bauer driveway and walked toward the back door of the house. The back screen was being closed when he saw a young college age woman leaving the Bauer house. He had finally caught up with Michelle to talk with her personally but the second look revealed he wasn’t as lucky as he had thought.

“Hi, I was hoping you were Michelle Bauer.”

“Michelle is a friend of mine….I left her a note on the door,” trying to explain her presence. “Do you know where all the Bauers are these days? It is like they all decided to disappear at the same time.”

“I saw Michelle a couple of weeks ago and she asked me to check on someone for her. I have called and left messages on the answering machine and I came by and left a note but I haven’t heard a word.”

The red light went on in her head and she decided to risk asking if he was a friend of the family. “Yes, I am a friend of the family and I didn’t introduce myself. I am Fletcher Reade, the editor of the Springfield Journal newspaper.”

“My name is Aussie Spencer. Michelle and I were in the same class at the Medical School at the hospital. I checked the mailbox and it is empty. I didn’t see a note any where which means someone is picking up the mail and notes.”

“Aussie, you spoke in the past tense when you mentioned being in school with Michelle. The reporter in me senses that something isn’t right here. Aussie, when did you last talk with Michelle?”

“Five days ago, I spoke with her on the phone to warn her about Danny Santos and his connections in Chicago. I haven’t heard from her since then and I have been encouraged to transfer to another medical school in Australia.”

“What are you telling me?”

“I told her to leave his house immediately. Michelle told me that she was going to leave but it is evident she has not left. I have a flight to catch in Chicago later today and I wanted to leave a note for Michelle. Mr. Reade, there is more going on with Michelle and Danny than even her family knows. When I talked with her Danny wasn’t there at his house but a cousin Father Ray was with her. Check with Danny’s secretary and his cousin the priest. Danny has her that I am sure of and be careful. You will be dealing with the mob!”

Fletcher shook his head in disbelief of what he was hearing. “I saw Michelle in the hospital a couple of weeks ago with Danny. He seemed older than Michelle and cordial when I met him. I can’t believe Michelle is with a guy from the mob. Aussie, do the police know about Michelle?”

“I didn’t call the police after my own experience. I am afraid of what the mob can do to my family.”

“Aussie, I promise that I won’t let anybody know what you have shared with me.”

From here on out, this is going to be a mob story standing on its own merit. “I will start with a call to San Core and the good Father Ray Santos will be next.”

“Mr. Reade, when you see or speak to Michelle again will you tell her she is still my friend to the end.”

“I will tell her and I will see this story to the end.” Pulling his notepad out from his shirt, Fletcher checked the telephone number of San Core and pressed the numbers in his cell phone.

“San Core, Mrs. Martinez speaking.”

“Mrs. Martinez, may I speak with Mr. Daniel Santos?”

“Mr. Santos is out of his office today, May I take a message?”

“No, I want to speak with Mr. Santos about an interview for the Springfield Journal.”

“Mr. Santos is unavailable for the next two weeks; he is away on vacation.”

“Thank you, I’ll call back later when he returns.”

“Aussie, I bet Danny has taken Michelle out of the country. This is the best I can do until I talk with his cousin Father Ray. Danny is on vacation for two weeks. The priest in the mob is an interesting story also. If I don’t have the police to help me find Michelle; I’m betting Father Ray has some answers. Aussie, this is my number at the Journal keep in touch with me.”

At the five pm mass, Fletcher waited until the service was over to speak with the young priest. “Father Ray, it was a nice mass.”

“Thank you, you must be new in the Parrish. I don’t remember seeing you here at the church before today.”

“I haven’t been to the church before because I didn’t need to see you until today. Father Ray, I think you may be able to answers some questions which I have about a friend of my family.”

Father Ray motioned for Fletcher to sit down. The man didn’t look or have that suspicious smell of a police officer but he had away of alerting your internal senses; this was important what he was seeking.

“Father Ray, I have you at a disadvantage. I know you but you don’t know me. I am Fletcher Reade the editor of the Springfield Journal. I did some investigating work for my friend and I have tried to call and speak with her at her home. I even went by and left a note and she hasn’t called me back.”

“Why are you here talking about your friend to me? I suggest you contact her family.”

“Father Ray, I did that and the strange thing is they have temporary dropped off the earth.”

“Perhaps, you should contact the police if they are missing.”

“I don’t want to involve the police at this stage. My friend use to baby-sit my son Ben and she comes from a old prominent family in Springfield. This is very serious and I am hoping the situation can be resolved without anymore people being hurt,” as Fletcher thought of Aussie and her exile to Australia.

“I still don’t know what else to tell you to do, Mr. Reade. This girl isn’t in my Parrish or least I am unaware of a young woman missing.”

“The reason I came to you are because my friend had asked me to check out your cousin Daniel Santos.”

Father Ray stared down at the floor and back up to Fletcher’s face. “Now, I understand why you came to me. You have been talking about Michelle Bauer. I can tell you Michelle is safe and with Danny.”

“Father, how can a promising young woman be safe with the mob? I have information that Michelle was going to leave Danny and you sit here with your collar and cross and tell me she is safe. That is crap and bullshit!”

“Fletcher, I spoke with Michelle yesterday and she has changed her mind.”

“Did Danny force her to change her mind?”

“I can only tell you what I was privileged to hear from Michelle’s mouth. Michelle will be back in Springfield in two weeks and back in school. I suggest you talk with Michelle.”

“Where did Danny take her?”

“Danny and Michelle are on a vacation with the rest of the Santos family. Fletcher, if you care for Michelle trust her in what she is doing. Michelle is marrying Danny to protect her twins’ future. This sounds cold and calculating but at the root of this situation is a love story. The story is Michelle’s to tell. I can’t tell you anymore at this time.”

Fletcher controlled the anger that was building up inside of him.” I never thought I’d see the day that a priest covered for the mob.”

“Fletcher, I am helping Danny and Michelle in an impossible situation. Please wait and talk with Michelle before you do something foolish. Fletcher, the mob is unforgiving if you get into their business. The family is business and Michelle is part of the family now.”

“Father, how does a girl like Michelle get involved in the mob?”

“Are you asking me how they met and fell in love?”

“I don’t see Michelle falling in love with Danny if she knew he was a mobster type.”

“Fletcher, you and I can talk and argue about the development of their relationship but they have a relationship. I was at the Y2K club the night that Danny and Michelle met and it was sparks from the beginning with both of them. Their relationship is private.”

“Father, Danny wasn’t above using tactics to force Michelle to stay with him five days ago so why do you think I am going to buy into this theory of yours today to placate you.”

“Danny did force Michelle to stay with him for three days. On the third day, Danny called me to advise and counsel Michelle. At the time, they had reached an impasse. I won’t lie to you it was difficult for Michelle to come to the decision she made. They have an agreement which was brokered by me and the God that I serve.”

“I can’t believe the words coming from you that you helped to broker a deal to seal a young woman to the mob.”

“Fletcher, you are naïve to think that Danny was going to give this woman up. It wasn’t going to take place. Danny had the means to disappear with Michelle to any country which he chose to live. Michelle was in a no win position and I helped to guide her to a place where she understood what she could gain. As hard as this may be for you perfect people but God has a plan for all his children. Daniel Santos fell in love with one of Springfield’s finest and most promising young woman. His sin is obvious to you no doubt. Michelle will be his wife. In the near future, Michelle is going to bear his children. Mr. Reade, how far are you willing to go to possibly cause or destroy more lives? I may be Danny’s cousin but I am a priest first and I did all I could to stop further devastation in Michelle’s life. When I see Michelle, I will tell her about your concerns. Michelle has the answers to your many questions. Good night, I have people waiting to work over at the mission tonight.”

Fletcher was as uncertain of his actions now and hoped the priest was a man of his word. There were events taking place in a young woman’s life, which were mind boggling to him. If the police became involved, years may pass without Michelle Bauer’s family hearing or seeing her. Fletcher had to trust the priest. He had the biggest story of his life sitting in his reach but the slightest slip or mistake had far reaching repercussions.

*****

The descending leer jet began its approach to the San Juan’s Aero Puerto Internacional de Luis Munoz Marin airport. Michelle had kept busy reading a medical book and taking notes while Danny and Carmen reviewed financial reports of stocks and signed off on business expenses. Pilar and Abuela played double solitaire for a couple of hours until Abuela went to the bedroom to rest.

Pilar sat at the table joining Michelle. “ Michelle, do you ever stop reading thick medical books?”

Michelle set the book down to answer Danny’s sister. “I don’t see the end in sight anytime soon. The more I read the more I seem to have to read these days.”

Danny closed his brief case, “No more work for two weeks. Michelle, are you interested in seeing Puerto Rico from the air?”

“Have we already got into the airspace above the island?”

“We should be pretty close. Come with me up front to the where the pilots are sitting. There are two jump seats behind the pilots and you can see the expanse of the Puerto Rican horizon.”

Danny picked up the intercom and asked the pilot if they had room for two more up front. Danny introduced Michelle to the pilots, which had its awkward moment since Michelle was sure they remembered the night she and Danny had made love on the plane.

Danny asked, “How long will it be before we put this bird down on the ground?”

“The tower says we are number five in the landing order and we should be on the ground in fifteen to twenty minutes.”

“Danny, this view is amazing. I had no idea that you can see the whole island from up here.”

“Honey, the island is only 100 miles long and 32 miles from north to south. Did you read any of the material Jimmy put together for you on PR?”

“Nope.”

“How are you going to become a little island girl if you don’t know where you are going to visit? This is your only geography lesson. What do you notice about the island from what you think you can see?”

“The towns are all on the coastline.”

“Pretty observant. Michelle, why do you think that the towns are all on the coastline?”

“The ocean silly.”

“Wrong answer. Puerto Rico is very mountainous. The topography concentrates the population in a few very dense urban centers. The island has three different kinds of weather. A tropical climate is on the beaches of the north coast and the warm moist air rises up over the mountains causing endless rains in the lush forests of the mountainous centers of living. On the south coast the weather is dry and arid heat. Remember that because your skin will burn easily. Always wear sunscreen and reapply it to your skin.”

Danny asked the pilot if they were going to fly over El Morro?

“We can take her in close enough to see the fort. Michelle, if you look you will see the old cemetery on the Atlantic side and on the northeast corner is San Crystabol-El Morror. It is an old fortress built for defense from land attacks. The fortress is one of the most photographed sites in Puerto Rico. See the San Juan Cathedral, wind surfers and all the people swimming and relaxing on the floats in the water. We can be doing either of those in a couple of hours.”

“Danny, I can’t believe how many beaches are down there.”

“The ones you see are mostly for tourists. Wait till you see our private beach at the villa.”

One of the pilots told Danny to be sure to arrange a helicopter tour of the island for Michelle. “A great idea and we can get up to the north west coast of Puerto Rico. The cliffs and the scenery is beautiful up in that region. In the winter season, the whales migrate down from the north Atlantic. From the high cliffs you can watch the whales off shore. Honey, we may have to save the trip until Christmas when the family comes down to spend some time in the sun for the New Year’s celebration.”

Danny asked the pilots if they were returning to Springfield tonight.

“No. We are going back tomorrow after Carmen does some shopping in Old San Juan. We are going to the casinos tonight. OK Boss, we’ve got the word from the tower that we can bring this baby down. The airport is straight ahead about two miles beyond the eastern border of the city in the beach front suburb of Isla Verdi.

“Michelle, look at all the hotels and casinos on the left and the turquoise water on the right. The adult playground of the island and many people only see this part of Puerto Rico.”

“Danny, I’m sure you have never spent an evening there!”

“I won’t have to anymore. I have you.”

The sound of the tires sitting down on the tarmac announced the arrival of an old family returning to their roots and heritage. The jet rolled into the bay area where the Santos family could disembark from the plane. Dietz descended the steps first and motioned for the limousines to pull up to the plane. From the cars, the local Santos security came out into view. Each man had the appearance of being members of an elite black belt society. Dietz spoke with the man in charge and related Jimmy’s instructions to the men. The man in charge went up the steps of the plane to greet his employers. Carmen saw her nephew first, he was one of her many relatives which she had placed personally in the family business on the island. Manuel’s devotion to his Aunt Carmen and Danny was obvious to Michelle from the beginning. The family spoke rapidly in Spanish to each other, which was frustrating to Michelle. Briefly, Michelle experienced the differences of Danny’s family and hers.

Pilar nudged her brother to introduce Michelle to Manuel. “Manuel, this is the lady which you are totally responsible for providing her protection.”

“Michelle, this is Manuel Santiago, another cousin and your personal body guard when you are in Puerto Rico.”

“Danny, I don’t want a bodyguard.”

“Honey, you have one because I say you have one here in Puerto Rico. If you had read the information packet that Jimmy put together for you; you would understand why. When you and I go out, they will follow us discreetly at a safe distance. I forgot to tell you that you are not to drink the local water when out in public. Drink only bottle water. The water can make you very sick and you don’t want to be sick again,” then he patted her abdomen.

“Manuel, it is a pleasure to meet another cousin in the family. I am sure you and I will get along fine.”

“Mamá, I want to take Michelle on a tour of old San Juan before we go to the villa. Do you mind taking Abuelá to the villa and getting her settled then you and Dietz can join us down on the plaza tonight.”

“ I don’t mind at all and Pilar can catch up with her friends here on the island.”

Danny and Michelle followed Manuel down the steps to the waiting cars. The four men followed the car carrying the couple into Old San Juan. Michelle wasn’t happy with the arrangements and felt the guys drew attention to them as they walked the quiet side streets.

“Michelle are you going to focus on the security which isn’t going away or the historic sites?”

“Danny, can you ask them to stay back a little further? I’m self conscious of them being with us and watching everything I do. Danny, I want to see all of the city but with you only.”

They both stopped walking. Michelle whispered in Danny’s ear. He paused before he kissed her on the forehead and walked back to the men. Danny walked back to Michelle and took her hand in his as they continued the walk down the cobble stone street. The men had dropped back to a still safe distance but still kept the couple in sight.

The old San Juan had been through a massive restoration with many of the buildings freshly painted with pastel colors and wrought iron balconies with potted plants. Many of the building were shops where Michelle and Danny browsed through observing the varied merchandise. In one of the shops, Danny purchased a single strand of pearls for Michelle. Outside of a building, Danny and Michelle stood in front of the storefront glass and saw their reflection with a breath taking pink, purple and orange sunset developing behind their own reflection. Danny’s arms were draped around Michelle where he snuggled against her body.

“Michelle, I have never seen the city this pretty until today.”

“Danny, keep the comments coming. You are a charmer and I love it when you tell me how pretty I am. If you ever get tired of being a mob boss, you can become a tour guide. The side streets do provide the strollers like you and I a chance to see the charms of the dramatic natural setting and the historic architecture. The Old San Juan is a true blend of Spanish colonial history and modern Puerto Rico culture as you walk along the lamp lit cobblestone streets.”

At one of the street venders, Michelle admired the island-grown flowers and walked away with a large bouquet of mixed flowers in her arms.

“Danny, you are extravagant. One of the small bouquets was adequate.”

“Maybe so if it was for a cousin or a sick friend but it was for you. The flowers match your pink sundress and the embroidery of the flowers on the dress.”

“So the flowers on the dress are what you have been observing for the past hour.”

Resting his eyes on her cleavage, “The flowers and your breasts.”

“In the past hour, you have bought a necklace and flowers to enhance my anatomy.” Tracing her finger along the side of his face to his lips, she rested her finger inside his mouth. “Danny, you have special lips. They are very good lips soft and wet.”

“Michelle, this isn’t good; we have two more hours to walk and finish seeing the major sites. The idea of this tour was to help you experience the town’s mood swings from the pensive mornings to the passionate nights.”

“The passionate is moving up quickly. Danny, I noticed some people walking with cups of colored ice.”

“It is a cup of shaved ice with fruit juices. The pineapple flavor is my favorite and the orange juice is good also.”

“Let’s get one mixed with pineapple and orange juice.”

“We can turn down Paseo de la Princesa and walk along the base of the wall and ramparts of EL Morro.  The views of the towers and the cemetery are beautiful this time of the evening with the last sun rays hitting against the white stones. In the background, the reflection of the ocean is spectacular.”

They strolled along the walk; sharing the shaved ice. At the end of the peninsula, Danny and Michelle stood watching the ocean and the sailboats returning to shore for the night. “Danny, this is paradise.”

“I agree.”

“I feel so safe with you here. Even with the four Shadows standing back at the tower.”

“They are necessary, Michelle. They are doing what I told them to do at this point.”

“What are they doing?”

“Have you noticed that we are out here by ourselves?”

“No not really, I was spell bound by the scenery and being able to enjoy it with you. A man with those dark, mysterious and seductive eyes holding me next to his heart.”

“Um, that has a nice ring to it. I am now a man with dark seductive eyes.”

“Add mysterious eyes to my description.”

“Michelle, can you see Bluebeard the pirate walking down this walk way? He and his men are returning from robbing the British slave ships. His men bring in the treasures for the fine citizens of this island to gaze upon the wealth and reward the people for their friendship and service. Bluebeard has a special lady friend and he calls her to the front of the crowd. My lady chooses the item which fancies her heart. She chooses a ring with a single fire opal surrounded by blue sapphires.”

“Danny, is you making up this story?”

“Never, my grandmother told the story to my mother and my mother told me the story at this very place along time ago.”

“I know your grandmother is a master story teller and I remember her telling me about some pirates but your spin to the story is the pirate Bluebeard gave a lady a ring. I have the feeling you want me to ask about the lady and what happened to the ring? Right?”

“Michelle, you are following up with the right questions! The ring was passed down through the generations from the mother in law to the new bride. It was a tradition to welcome the young woman into the family.”

“Danny, this is better than Camelot.”

“Michelle, how did you get the British back into the story?”

“I was just thinking of the romantic tradition. The days of Camelot are so romantic. The British did supply the ring for Bluebeard!”

“Indeed they did.”

“Danny get back to the ring!”

“Now, you are interested in the ring.”

“Yes, you have tweaked my interest.”

“The day, I went to Chicago and Ray stayed with you was the day I went to a jeweler to pick up this ring after it had been sized to fit your finger.” Danny reached inside his coat pocket to pull the opal and blue sapphire ring from the small blue velvet wrapper. “Today, the tradition continues with you. Michelle, the ring will stay with you until it is your time to welcome a new bride into the family. The ring is worn on the right hand.” Michelle raised her right hand and Danny slipped the opal ring on her finger. The gold antique filigree setting sparkled with the opal and blue sapphires. Danny kissed Michelle with a gentle passion kiss. The tears ran down her cheeks and his cheeks.

Wiping her tears away with his fingers, she promised to honor the tradition of his family. “I can’t get over how generous you are to me.”

Leaving the EL Morror site, they took another street and short cut through to the city plaza where the young and old gathered to sit and discuss the local events. Danny spotted Carmen and Dietz sitting on one of the many stone and wood benches, which the city had an abundance of to encourage the age-old tradition. The sound of the salsa music played in the background and all ages were dancing in the street. The music was contagious to anyone with feet that were able to move and sway to the most popular music on the island. The blend of the African and Indian drums and Spanish lyrics awakened the desire to dance and celebrate life in the plaza. Carmen was dying to dance with Dietz.

“I was ready to give up on you two love birds. Dietz and I are going over to the Starfish nightclub to dance and get dinner. Are you interested in joining us there?”

Danny asked, “Michelle, are you ready to challenge my mother and Dietz on the dance floor? Be warned, she can shake her bun buns as Ricky Martin says.”

“Danny, I won’t challenge Carmen but it sounds kind of fun to watch them dance.”

“From my standpoint, everyone learns to dance first in this country. They make it look easy.” Carmen saw the opportunity to teach Michelle what she had grown up doing all of her life.

“Michelle, the reason why everyone can dance here is the dance is nothing but a walk applied to a rhythm. The walk step increases in pace and the dance becomes a combination of the Rumba and tap step count. The salsa is a smoldering dance with a rhythmic pulse beat. The shimmer of your shoulders to the driving beat of the music becomes contagious and the islanders loose their inhibitions. There are hand signals that match the caller which synchronizing the swaying and steps. Many of the dancers have developed their own moves and they go to nightclubs to show off their moves. The dance is one of the passionate expressions of the locals. They have always had music and dance in their culture. It was part of Danny’s father and my culture. It is important that you learn to dance and enjoy the fun when you are here on vacation. Michelle, it is great exercise to restore your figure after the birth of a baby.”

“Mamá, Michelle and I went to Rico’s in Chicago and she had a beginner’s course from the staff. Michelle can sway and grind with the best.”

“I can’t wait to see how well she learned from the staff.”

The Starfish nightclub was divided into two sections. The restaurant had a table reserved for the four from which they could see the large dance floor. After ordering their meal, Carmen and Dietz found a space on the floor to practice their moves.

“Danny, your mother and her body guard can dance. They seem to be close in more ways than just dance partners.”

“Yea, they are close. Dietz was my father’s bodyguard when my father was killed.”

“Maybe, I shouldn’t ask this but why is he still living and your father died?”

“Dietz was shot protecting my father. He went down first. Dietz carries the scars of the hit physically and emotionally. He doesn’t like having the total responsibility for the family. My mother keeps him around for his services. That is all you need to know.”

“Michelle, how are you feeling?”

“I’m OK. The babies are ok too.”

Taking her hand in his, Danny kissed her hand while they watched Carmen and Dietz dance. “Honey, this is my plan for tonight. We eat some food and dance. Then, you and I leave and go to the villa. We can swim in the ocean tonight and go to bed early. Tomorrow, I can drive you to different Catholic churches in the towns or you can use the computer to find a church.”

“Danny, is it possible for you to give me a schedule of your planned activities? I want to plan my time to study.”

“You have to decide where the wedding is going to be by tomorrow night. The schedule for the next three days can’t be changed. You and I are going to be away on a pre-honeymoon adventure.”

“How can it be a honeymoon with the four shadows?”

“Michelle, wait and see.”

The lights went down in the restaurant side of the nightclub and the waitress lit the candles on the table. The dinner was served in the candle lit atmosphere. After the champagne had been poured, Carmen made a toast and lifted her glass to Michelle; “To Michelle may you find happiness in the family and thank you for bringing new life to the Santos family.”

“Carmen, I want to thank you for the ring. This has been such a whirlwind of events. Being here reinforces the fact that Danny and I come from two separate worlds. What we have in common is enough to bond us for life. The bond is a love of our families. I can imagine the emotional pain you must have suffered to give this priceless ring to someone you barely know.”

“Michelle, the ring was given to me the day that Miguel and I were married in the mountain town of Moca. I didn’t know about the family business but I was in love with Miguel. Miguel and I were robbed of the best years of our life. Miguel should be here to see this happy celebration. In some ways, he is here because the family heritage and tradition continues in the ring.”

Carmen’s remarks had an unsettling feeling on Michelle. She missed her family. They were all being denied the celebration of her wedding. Danny had sensed her emotional distance. Michelle was listening to their conversation but never hearing a word. Danny signed the credit card charge form and picked up Michelle’s flowers. The two were out in the plaza before Michelle understood that they were returning to the villa for the night. It was like she had a temporary loss of time.

“Danny, where are we going?”

“We are in the process of walking to a car. It is evident that you are running on nervous energy. You need to rest. We are going home and going to bed for the night.”

“What happened back in the nightclub?”

“Honey, you seemed to be kind of spacey to me. You quit talking and just sat there staring out in space for awhile. Michelle, you have got to be honest with me. What is going on in your mind? Do you need to see a doctor?”

“I feel normal as any woman. I miss my family.” Michelle saw the car waiting for them at the end of the street. “I see Cinderella’s carriage awaits.”

The drive from San Juan to the villa took about forty-five minutes. The narrow road curved back and forth and up the steep hill in a serpentine pattern. At the top of the ridge was the villa hid behind the gate. The villa appeared to be white with multiple layers of blue awnings on the Oceanside of the house. Danny covered Michelle’s eyes as they climbed the steps to the upper level of the villa. He unlocked the door to reveal the interior of the villa.

“Oh my gosh, Danny, this is a beautiful home.”

Danny mentioned, “It isn’t very big but it has great views of the water.”

“Danny, you say this isn’t very big! How many levels of living space do you have here?”

“There are four levels counting the basement which is for storage.”

“Where do we stay?”

“The bedrooms are up on the next level. There is a swimming pool outside the balcony and terraced gardens. Michelle, you can see it all tomorrow. It is time for you to have a nice warm relaxing bath and then to bed for some rest. Follow me up the steps and I will show you a bedroom with the best views on this end of the ridge.”

Danny was lying on the bed dressed only in the bottoms of a pair of navy blue pajamas when Michelle came out of the bathroom from taking the warm bath. She had on a long cotton mint green gown with spaghetti straps. “The bath was relaxing and I heard the waves crashing outside on the rocks.  I almost fell asleep in the tub.”

“Good.”

“I can’t imagine having a bathroom and a balcony sitting over the ocean. Do we have to close the doors on the balcony?”

“No, but  leave the door open but you may wake up with a headache from the salt water.”

Michelle walked out to the balcony and stood watching the ocean below her and above the thousand stars shining in the sky. “Danny, I feel your presence and you are standing behind me.”

“I am right behind you.” Massaging her shoulders and neck, Danny told Michelle the ocean will still be here tomorrow. “The bed awaits a very tired woman.”

“I am tired. Danny, what is this with the bottoms of pajamas tonight?”

“I like sleeping in them down here because generally I keep the doors open and it keeps the mosquitoes off my naked butt. Tonight, I want you to rest. I want to hold you in my arms till you fall asleep. We are not going to make love tonight.”

True to his word, Michelle fell asleep in his arms that night. From the bed, he watched the night sky after she went to sleep. Danny prayed for a miracle to happen for Michelle. Time was the problem. On another continent, another man held part of Michelle’s heart. Danny didn’t pretend to understand his behavior but the one-day in Michelle’s life; the man was going to do right by her if he could be found.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The next chapter is the wedding! On a personal note, this week I lost a dear friend and companion. My little dog of 15 years died. She was my shadow. If I went upstairs, she went upstairs. It was amazing that she could be asleep and if I moved anywhere, she awakened to follow. Missy died a peaceful death in her sleep in her favorite spot on the foot of a bed. I hope this explains my slowness in getting the chapter done.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: