Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis Chapter 26

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I must apologize for the long time frame in between posting this chapter and the last chapter but I experienced a power surge and lost nine pages to cyber space. Read and enjoy.

Mob’s Cardinal by Phyllis– Chapter 26

Backing the jeep out of the garage, Jimmy handed the keys to Danny’s extended hand. “Any more news on Nino?”

“Everything is quiet.”

“Why did they have to send for dental records? The body wasn’t in the water that long for it to be unrecognizable.”

“The body was bloated but the Sandoval rep said the face was blown off.”

Danny hunched his shoulders after hearing the gruesome detail. “Somebody had a very personal vendetta against Nino.”

“I totally agree, Boss. Manuel told me that Nino was hitting on a made man’s girlfriend from New Orleans.”

Shaking his head, Danny said, “The two factions from Chicago and New Orleans have never made peace… too much animosity over Atlantic City. Jimmy, Michelle is going back to medical school on Monday morning, which means you are going to be busy putting the surveillance in place. It is time for Dr. Andersen to earn his money.”

“Boss, I have been thinking that we need only one man in at the hospital; the rest I can do until we have Michelle’s schedule and behavior figured out down to the minute. It has to be someone that Michelle isn’t suspicious of but is close to her age or a much older man or woman.”

“Manuel is close to her age, but Michelle knows him from his work here on the island.”

“Exactly Jimmy! I want an older woman in her late thirties or forties. I’ll call you everyday that we are away for an update.”

“Danny, where are you two going on this road trip?”

“West to Arecibo Observatory and down to Ponce and back up the east side of Puerto Rico.”

“Where has Dietz been keeping himself these days?”

“Carmen had him working on one of her projects here in San Juan. He told me that he was joining Carmen at her coffee plantation.”

“Dietz will be surprised to see Carmen with another male hanging around her skirt tail. He is a jealous crazy man when it comes to your mother.”

“Jimmy, Carmen will use the jealousy to her advantage, but Dr. Bauer will stay clear of her. I’m a little taken back at how they did seem to be enjoying the others company at the reception. I have expected Michelle’s father to put up some excuse about wanting to stay here instead of going to the plantation.”

Jimmy came to Michelle’s father’s defense by explaining, “Maybe he remembered his own honeymoon and wanted Michelle and you to have privacy.”

After placing the suitcases in the back of the jeep, Danny walked back into the villa to see what was holding up their departure. Michelle was writing a note to Carmen and her father explaining their absenteeism.

Dear Carmen and Dad,

Danny and I have left on a road trip to see Puerto Rico. We are going down to Ponce and over to Arecibo and back to Loiza. Tell Pilar that the outfit, which she wanted to wear at a beach party, is in the closet and Danny wants his Peanut to join us in Loiza for the carnival on Saturday at the plaza about noon. Danny will check in with you if there are any changes.

Love,

Michelle and Danny

 

“Honey are you ready?”

“I am now; I left a note in case anyone is anxious about this trip.”
Seeing the peeling skin on her arms and shoulders from the sunburn, “You need some suntan lotion on you skin. I have the canvas top down on the jeep and with the look of the condition of your skin; you can really get burned easily, so let me put some lotion on your back and shoulders.”

The lotion cooled Michelle’s skin and Michelle remembered the soothing back rubs that Danny treated her to after they made love. “A woman could get use to this care.”

Kissing the magic spot behind Michelle’s ear, Danny hugged her waist and massaged her abdomen. “Michelle, you take care of my manly needs.” Patting her butt, “It is time for us to go.”

The wind blowing over the windshield blew Michelle and Danny’s curls in every direction. Tired of pushing her hair off of her face, Michelle scrounged around in her raffia tote for a hairclip or rubber band. Pulling her long hair up into ponytail, “How long are we going to be in the jeep?”

“A couple of hours but we can stop any place if you see something interesting.”

Pulling the small book from her bag, “Do you recognize this book?”

Danny grinned one of those smiles that captivated Michelle. “I do and I believe it is from the travel package created by Jimmy.”

“In the Puerto Rican travel guide, I read that Arecibo is the capital of the karst country.” Showing Danny the small picture of the green mounds of hills and the valley in between the geological formations and the steep ridge. “It says the best karsts hills are further west near Lake Guajataca.”

“I know where that picture was taken. I booked a parador close to the Observatory for tonight. Tomorrow, we can swing west to the karsts country, over to Moca and loop back down to Ponce.”

“Danny, if I am reading this map, Moca seems to be out of the way.”

“It is but I am thinking of importing the handmade mundillo lace to the US. And European markets. Pilar wants to open a boutique in Springfield or Chicago. It is a special item with limited exposure and can be used as an advertising draw to the boutique plus it provides jobs for the women living in the mountain towns. They sell low and we will sell high. In addition, we have no import fees from P.R. to the USA.”

“Am I to understand this trip isn’t to entertain Mrs. Bauer-Santos but a two in one deal.”

“Honey, the trip is for you but when you mentioned the karsts country, I knew Moca was to the NW.  The lace has been in the back of my mind as a business venture for sometime. San Core has other investments on the island such as the Pharmaceutical Company. It has been good investment. My father made the first investment to help the poor economy. The returns gave my family the freedom to move across to other legitimate enterprises.”

Intertwining her fingers with his right hand, “We are connected even in the medical field. Your family makes the medications and my family writes the prescriptions for the medicine.”

Leaning over to kiss Michelle on the cheek, “I love you for many reasons but I have discovered that you look for the positives in people.”

“My mom Maureen looked for the best in people and her death robbed me of years without her wise counsel. Mom was a good friend with Fletcher Reade and his wife Mauve. I have to call Fletcher today and I did ask him to see what he could discover about this handsome mysterious man that I was seeing.”

Rubbing her knee, “A handsome mysterious man is the description of your husband. I agree that you owe Fletcher a call. When we get to the Observatory, you can use my calling card courtesy of San Core.”

“Danny, how did your father meet Carmen?”

“They met at a cock fight.” Laughing at his own answer, “Mr. Rooster is safe, I’m not into watching roosters fight to death. Michelle, cock-fighting is big here on the island.”

The thought was revolting to Michelle and it was difficult for her to see Carmen at such an event. “Was Carmen at the cock- fight?”

“My father was spending time at the white-sand beach at Aguada. Out of boredom, he went up to Aguadilla. Both are lovely seaside towns but Aguadilla is more prosperous and is laid out like a Mediterranean resort. He was looking for action and after he left the fight, he was sitting in the plaza. Carmen was a young seventeen year-old girl venturing out from her mountain home. My father spotted the dark-haired beauty walking in the plaza and the next day he convinced her to return with him to the US. A year later they returned to the island and where married in the church at Moca. They connected the first time that they saw each other. My mother worshiped my father. They danced every night in the living room before my father left the house to go out on business. Carmen was the person that read to us and put us to bed at night. Sundays were devoted to going to church and spending the afternoon together. In the summer, we went on picnics and out on the boat in lake Michigan.  When winter came, we all visited local museums and drove around the upper class neighborhoods admiring the houses. My father and mother made plans to build the fairytale home but then he was killed. The rest of the story, you heard at Abuelá’s restaurant.”

“Danny, it sounds as normal as any other family’s activity.”

“Honey, it was the routine that I was raised with but it wasn’t normal. Michelle, I want us to dance every night before we go to bed. It will be our family tradition except you and I will sleep in the safety of our home. It will demonstrate how far the Santos family has come.”

Turning the jeep south of Arecibo, Danny made a left hand turn down into the heart of karsts country. The two lane narrow road lived up to its description of enduring a roller coaster ride. The last leg of the trip into the Observatory had a touch of drama and science fiction as the jeep reached the crests of the steep hill. Danny slowed the jeep down for Michelle to take in the view of the immense telescope support towers gleaming in the sun above the hills. The jeep followed the road as it descended toward a line of high fences and a guarded gatehouse that looked like something out of the X-FILES. Danny parked the jeep in one of the available spots. Grabbing his camera and Michelle’s hand, they walked down the path to the space-age glass and concrete building set on the steep side of the hill. There in front of the couple sat the twenty-acre dish sitting in a natural sinkhole between clusters of hills. Looking through the telescope, they saw underneath the dish was a jungle of ferns, orchids and begonias.

“This is impressive Danny.”

“Let’s go on a tour.”

Inside the building, there were men and women graduate students giving lectures on the construction of the dish and its official use for the field of Astronomy. Joining a group of other visitors, after Danny signed their names to the nightly demonstration of the giant telescope. The Observatory owed its existence to Puerto Rico’s political status as a Commonwealth of the U.S. and to the island’s geographic position 17 degrees above the equator. Hidden among the mountains of NW Puerto Rico where the stars shine undimmed by city lights, sits the most sensitive radio telescope on earth. The site was ideal for the observation of planets, quasars, pulsars and other cosmic phenomena. The dish itself is off limits and contrary to rumors there are no military experiments of any kind conducted here, and despite the presence of security guards, there is nothing secretive about the place.

The Arecibo Observatory was funded by an annual $ 7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Cornell University of Ithaca, New York managed its day-to-day affairs. At least 130 doctoral and graduate students were employed and active in research. The Observatory hosted visiting scientist from around the world and tonight a Russian scientist from the space program was the guest speaker.

Nudging Danny, Michelle whispered, “ I want to come back tonight.”

“That is what I signed us up for tonight.” The final enticing information giving to the visitors was the Observatory had been in the movie CONTACT in which Jodie Foster played an astronomer seeking extraterrestrial life. “Thank you for visiting the “Dish”; there is a gift shop down the hall for those interested in additional information about the field of Astronomy.”

Leaving the group, Michelle spotted the pay telephone. “Do I have time to make a telephone call to Fletcher?”

“Sure,” removing his wallet, Danny gave Michelle his business credit calling card. “While you make your call, I want to visit the gift shop.” Placing a kiss on her soft lips, Danny left Michelle in the alcove. Michelle dialed the number from memory. The telephone rang twice before Fletcher answered at his desk at the Springfield Journal. “Fletcher, this is Michelle Bauer.”

“Michelle! Where have you been and where are you now?”

“I’m in Puerto Rico and this will be a shocker to you but I’m on my honeymoon.”

“Michelle, you can’t be a married woman this soon.”

Avoiding answering that question, Michelle told Fletcher that Father Ray had come down for the wedding and she had only heard recently that Fletcher was hunting for her. “I married Danny Santos. I was interested in Danny when I asked you to snoop around. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

“Michelle, it wasn’t inconvenient.”

“I have some concerns but we can talk when you get back to Springfield.”

“I have a message from a friend of yours.”

“It must be from Bill Lewis!”

“No, it’s from a young woman named Aussie Spencer.”

“When did you see Aussie?”

“I stopped by your house to inform you that Mr. Daniel Santos has some mob connections and Aussie was leaving a note at your house. Michelle, this is a big story when one of Springfield’s most promising young woman marries into a mob family.”

“Fletcher, this isn’t only about me but the future of little innocent… I’ll be back in school on Monday but the day is shaping up to be a nightmare.  I don’t want anyone else to be hurt and the word retaliation has been used before. I’ll call you at the hospital to set up a meeting; it will have to be a place where people move in and out without drawing attention.”

“Michelle, are you really OK?”

“I am. I believe in destiny, our chance meeting has turned my life’s journey down a path, which I normally would have never chosen. The story is scary and fascinating at the same time. Fletcher, I have to hang up.”

“Bye”

Michelle replaced the receiver and left the phone to rejoin her husband in the gift shop. Danny was signing the slip of paper for the telescope with a computer program. “Mr. Santos, the telescope will be shipped from the factory in Switzerland to your home.”

“Danny, have you just bought yourself an adult toy?”

Picking up his credit card and returning it to his wallet, “I did. We need to get out of here to get to the parador. Did you reach Fletcher?”

“I did and we are going to me later to talk.”

“See, I told you it wasn’t going to be hard to do.”

The jeep climbed the gravel road to the small parking lot below the abandoned coffee plantation that had a new life as a county inn. The steps up to the inn came to a landing that had been developed into a smaller version of a plaza. There were wooden benches placed at all kinds of angles for the enjoyment of conversation. Light posts, ferns and flowers complimented the plaza and created the atmosphere of a place where you wanted to linger. Michelle walked around the gardens and waited for Danny to register at the Hacienda Juanita.

The original two story pale green-framed building had been once the home of the plantation owners. The white porches on the upper and lower levels provided a wide view of the steep hills, which had held the roots of the coffee trees. The death of the trees ended the past life style. The resurgence of country inns gave a new life to the plantation. The new owners had planted grooves of orange, banana and avocado trees near the building to provide fresh fruit to the guest. A sign encouraged the guest to pick their own breakfasts but for the lazy ones, a bowl of fragrant fruits are always within reach, and bunches of bananas hang from the 150-year old beams inside the dining room.

Danny saw the familiar honey blonde hair walking in the avocado grove. Punching in the number in his cell phone, Danny paced on the limestone and waited for Jimmy to answer his call. “Jimmy, I want you to check the number of minutes my calling card was used today….The call which I am interested in was made to The Springfield Journal or the residence of Fletcher Reade. I want to know by tomorrow. I had to push Michelle to call the man and afterward she hardly made any comment except to say Fletcher was going to meet with her later to talk. If the conversation was short and to the point; then the meeting isn’t a big deal….Any thing longer than ten minutes will tweak my interest….We have to find out what his true intentions are for Michelle….He is an old family friend of Michelle’s parents and she babysat his son Benjamin….There is a connection but having a snoopy newspaper hanging over Michelle isn’t the most desirable predicament to be in with Fletcher….I will call you from Ponce tomorrow night.”

Coming back with her arms full of bananas and avocados, Michelle offered a banana to Danny.

“I see you have been busy raiding the groves of trees.”

“Danny, I couldn’t resist. We can take some of the fruit home with us and serve it at the cookout on Monday night.”

“Speaking of eating, the dining room is serving dinner. The owner sent his two boys down to get our suitcases and they are going to take them up to our room.”

“Danny, I cannot believe this place. There is a sign posted in the groves that says there are bananas hanging from 150 year-old beams in the dining room. It is a treat to think that we are going to sleep in an old coffee plantation. If the walls only had away of speaking to us; what would they say?”

“Mrs. Santos, your husband is very hungry. Please feed him.”

Inside the dining room, the fruit, which Michelle carried in her arms, was placed in a cold storage. The custom of having a meal with rice and beans with sofrito sauce suited Michelle and Danny. The freshness of the avocado salad boosted the already high opinion that Michelle had of the inn.

“Now Danny, did I understand that Carmen and my father are at a Santos owned coffee plantation?”

“Correct. The coffee which Father Ray covets is grown there. We import most of the coffee beans into the larger cities where we sell it for over $25 dollars a pound.”

“Danny, that is highway robbery to charge that exorbitant price for a pound of coffee.”

Taking her left hand in his and stroking the large diamond on her hand, “The coffee paid for this. Be careful of expressing your disdain for the coffee when you are in Carmen’s presence, she might not be happy with your idea of what is exorbitant.”

“I assume this is another of one of those subjects, which I am to keep silent.”

“You are learning quick, if you aren’t sure, come to me and ask what is appropriate.”

“When will I get to go to the coffee plantation?”

“Soon but it will have to be the next trip to Puerto Rico.”

“And when will that be?”

“We leave the day after Christmas and come back to Springfield a week after New Years Day.”

Reviewing her medical school schedule in her mind, “There isn’t anyway that I can come for the long stay during the holidays. We don’t even get a whole day off! By that time, I will be almost eight months pregnant and my traveling will be limited.”

Touching her hand up to his lips, he held her hand close to his cheek. “We will see what can be done to change your schedule.”

“Please do not have anyone play favoritism with my life at the medical school. It won’t make me any friends and it is bad enough being the daughter of my father and the sister of Rick. I want to make it in the medical school on my own. Will you promise me, Danny?”

“Why don’t we check out the bedroom before we leave to drive back to the Observatory.”

“You are avoiding my request because you want to for personal reasons or has this already been arranged?”

“I didn’t answer because I don’t have the answer yet Mrs. Santos…Bauer-Santos.”

The screen door and the opened shutters at the windows separated the bedroom from the outside world. In the center of the room, the ceiling fan blades turned on the slow methodical speed, moving the cooling late afternoon air. The carved mahogany bed represented a turn of the century style with the mosquito netting to keep the insects away from the exposed skin at night. On the top of a dresser was a radio, which Danny turned on to the sound of Jimmy Buffet’s Beach House on the Moon. “Do you recognize the man singing?”

“I love his island music.”

“Danny, are you a parrot head?”

“Michelle, all parrots heads know how to fly.”

“We have got to go to one of his concerts. Everybody comes dressed in island shirts and his followers bring every thing imaginable that goes with the island theme.  Inflated sharks, parrots and beach chairs and they party all day before the concert.”

“I am a parrot head and how appropriate that we can begin our ritual of dancing to his music with this song. Mrs. Santos, can I have the pleasure of this dance?”

Moving in close to dance to the song, Michelle listened to the lyrics.

Beach House on the Moon

Cameron’s getting logical

A Vulcan in disguise

The mysteries of the night are

Putting sparkle in his eyes

He’s looking for sound reasoning

But the best that I can do

Is this transcendental story

That I’ll pass along to you.

Past the falls they call Victoria

Down the river named the Nile

Drifts a tiny little handmade boat

It’s shaped just like a smile

And steered by a magician

With the knowledge that he needs

To keep him on his destined course

Past the crocodiles and reeds

He’s the Admiral of the ocean

The lone eagle in the sky

He gave me my first sextant

And he taught me how to fly

I saw him through my telescope

On a cloudless night in June

As he rested between voyages

At his beach house on the moon

A striped bass breaks the surface

As the sunset fades away

And our journey from the Sea of Storms

Takes us home beside the bay

We go traveling back in time

Like the song says ‘teach your children’

To go fishing with their minds

Cameron’s contemplating

I’m not sure just what he thinks

“Is my dad some kind of lunatic

With his stories and high hi-jinks”

Then he says when I get old and gray

And feel like I’m marooned

He will take me in his rocket ship

To that beach house on the moon.

Dancing to a slow version of the Spanish style salsa, Danny wrapped his arms enclosing Michelle’s warm body next to his body.

“Danny, it is all right with me if we skip the Observatory tonight and we can retire for the night early.”

“Hum, this is a tough call but we can pick up later tonight where we are now.  The Russian scientists use to be so boisterous about their space program and now the program is practically defunct, that I’m curious what subject this guy might have to elaborate on tonight. Besides I have you here with me for the rest of the night. Michelle, if he is boring, we can leave early.”

Danny and Michelle slipped into the last two available seats before the lights dimmed in the 120-seat auditorium. The sound of the motor opening the section of the roof of the Observatory exposed the blackness of the sky with the lights of the night sky beaming back to the earth. The giant telescope slowly rose from a support platform from a space beneath the opening in the roof. At the lectern, the man with a flashlight introduced himself. His credentials included living in the Russian space lab and sharing the home with the first Americans visiting the floating lab held together by the sheer determination of the scientists back home in mother Russia.

Tonight’s program, the computer had been programmed to search the area of space in which the Haille Bopp comet had been discovered. The comet was an enormous discovery and beginning in February the comet would be able to be seen by the naked eye before disappearing again into the dark heavens. In addition, the rings of Saturn were at a perfect angle for the inner rings to be seen with the telescope. The astronomer wanted to demonstrate the ease of watching the heavens with the naked eye and the visible planets in the summer sky rising on the eastern horizon. He described the program as simple as public relations to keep the people on earth interested in the space research programs and the pure enjoyment of sharing a hobby with people from other nations on earth.

After the visitors left the Observatory, the real work began as the paid astronomers searched their specific areas in the far ends of space. Amateur astronomers through out the world often verify new sightings or activities in heavens. What a person would see in one time zone may be seen within minutes in another time zone. The use of the Internet enabled the astronomers to converse to each other and to alert friends of their discoveries. The closing statement from the speaker had to do with the huge size of the “Dish” that in a jumbo jet at 33,000 feet the object could be spotted. The numerous astronomical breaks through of discovering planets out of our solar system to NASA’s $ 100 million search for extraterrestrial Intelligence had happened at the Observatory. The dish was fixed in position but the sensitive radio spun clock-wise to pick up the so-called music of the stars; the pulses of energy from an exploding star million of light years away out in the galaxy. The rewards, The Nobel Prize had come to two American astronomers in 1993 for work done using the Arecibo Observatory.

The lights gradually came back up in the auditorium. The visitors were invited outside to use freestanding telescopes where the graduate students with the trained eyes identified the treasures in the sky.

Choosing to leave after the presentation, Danny snapped the canvas cover on the jeep. The ride back to the inn involved stopping to watch the “Dish” from the last viewpoint and a quick picture of Michelle in the foreground.

The other guest had retired from the inn’s plaza, which offered a bench for the couple to watch the planets as they left the edges of the eastern horizon to travel across the heavens in their own orbit around the sun. Michelle rested her head in Danny’s lap; enjoying the back and shoulder massage that his strong fingers furnished. “Danny, do you believe in prophecy or the future being revealed?”

“Maybe.”

Tracing her finger over his knee and thigh, “I do. The theme for today has been space; even with the music that we danced to tonight. I can see the North Star and hear the words ‘He gave me my first sextant and taught me how to fly.’ It is like this marriage of ours is a journey and God is directing our travel.”

“Come on, Michelle, don’t go Father Ray on me. It is definitely time for us to go to bed. The antique bed is calling for us to show her how two young people make love.”

Giggling at the prospect of making love with her husband in the bed, Michelle said, “I hope she isn’t bashful.”

Danny closed the screen door and locked the outside door while Michelle dressed in a cotton gown with a lace bodice and straps. “Which side of the bed are you sleeping on tonight Danny?”

“Wherever you are is where I will be, Honey.”

“Do we have to use the netting?”

“Unless you want to be bitten all over the body. Jump in the bed, I’ll loosen the net.”

Pulling the sheet back, Michelle laid on her back waiting for Danny’s nude body to press down against her gown.

“When are the formalities of coming to bed dressed in gown going to stop?”

“When I get accustomed to sleeping with a man.”

The closeness of his face over her face and their lips and tongues pressing into the others mouth quickly gave way to Danny pausing to pull the hem of Michelle’s gown over her head. Speaking in Spanish phrases, which Michelle had grown to understand as terms of endearments. His fingers traced the edges of her sides and over each breast. Pushing his head down to her abdomen, his tongue went in and out over her navel. The kisses that he placed on her lower abdomen were beyond counting as the stars in the sky. The fingers of his hand pushed into the treasure of her youth before he engaged his tongue in oral sex. The odor from Michelle’s body and the movement of her body to come closer to him; propelled his animal instinct to aggressive but gentle love making until he had to enter Michelle. With his sexual desire fulfilled by her body, Michelle turned to lie on her stomach waiting for Danny to reward her with his patented back rubs. Before falling a sleep, Michelle heard Danny say to her, “Yes, I believe that we are destined for a long journey.”

Michelle’s fluttering eyelids opened to the early rising sunrays. It took several moments for her to realize where she was awakening today. The netting hanging from the canopy bed was unfamiliar in her world. But the long arm and leg draped over her naked body, she was familiar. The sparkle from the diamond on her left hand caught the light in the bedroom.   The rooster crowing outside reminded Michelle that she was returning to Springfield as Michelle Bauer-Santos to live in a home on the lake.

Thinking of her future with Danny and her pending motherhood was becoming a reality to cope with along side of her desire to pursue the medical profession. The one part of her life, which she was certain of, was Danny was controlling and eliminated any interference in their relationship. Danny had dropped subtle suggestions of staying in Puerto Rico until after the twins were born or sailing off into the sunset for an extended stay in the Caribbean. The Santos family was connected to the island life and chose to spend family holidays here with two homes in Puerto Rico. Danny was expecting Michelle to adapt to his lifestyle.

They were back on the road before the sun had risen high in the sky. Heading due west on the breath-taking road to Lake Guajataca, where the dark green section of the island’s NW land rises in regular green and white small mounds or hills and appears to be boiling out of the earth. Danny described how Puerto Rico is one of those places blessed to an almost unfair extent with an enormous variety of beauty of landscape. The name given to this part of PR was from the geological term of karsts that explained one of the world’s oddest rock formations, which can occur only under the most chance circumstances. Each karst is formed when water sinks into limestone and erodes larger and larger basins, known as “sink holes.” Eventually the many erosions create many sinkholes until one is left with peaks of land only where the land has not sunk with the erosion of the limestone. The unique beauty is staggering when you see the vista with each small mound resembling each other in size and shape. Michelle would later describe the sight of karst country as another dimension to the island paradise too often labeled as a place for a “beach vacation”. The fresh water lake provided Danny and Michelle an opportunity to swim in the cool refreshing water.

By lunchtime, the jeep arrived in Moca to the small mountain town where in less than a week they had been married. The Church on the Hill looked so different in the mid-day sun. The pinkish color of the exterior appeared freshly painted and well preserved. Inside the church, Danny and Michelle held hands as they walked up to the altar where they had exchanged their vows.

“Michelle, it looks different today.”

“I was so nervous that I hardly remember the inside of the church.”

“It is a special church.”

The priest approached the couple at the altar before he recognized the newlyweds. “This is a first. I don’t usually see the people I marry so soon.”

“Father, Michelle and I are on a trip visiting areas outside of San Juan. We visited The Arecibo Observatory and the karsts country which led us to Moca and the possibility of buying and importing Mundillo lace.”

“Daniel, there are excellent workshops in Moca. The tradition came to the island with the early nuns, who practiced the art in order to finance schools and orphanages. The nuns perfected the art in their schools and convents. The renewed interest in island folk art has revived the process. The women here have learned to weave the cloth with delicate designs such as flowers and spiders by manipulating bobbins of thread at lightning speed to form different kinds of stitches.”

“Danny, it seems that Father can arrange the lace to be sold directly to you.”

“This may be the best procedure.” Writing the telephone number of San Core on a piece of paper, “Call me at this number. Mrs. Martinez is my secretary and tell her it’s about a business adventure in Puerto Rico.”

“I see you have your camera with you. May I take your picture together here at this altar?” After the picture was taken, Danny and Michelle walked over to one of the workshops to see the handmade lace.

The lady weaving the lace demonstrated her art as they watched in amazement the speed, which she worked in producing tablecloths. Michelle purchased four of the cloths for Abbey, Aunt Meta, Caitlin and her self.

The final activity in Moca was spent at an outside café. The village was settling down for the afternoon siesta when they left the town heading back in the SE direction of Ponce, the pearl of the south.

In Michelle’s diary, she wrote of her first impression of Ponce: “In the evening, Ponce is quiet place where grand buildings painted in pastels eye each other across serene streets like elderly women lost in remembrances of things past. The flower vendors court couples strolling down the streets. Danny treated me to another bouquet. The time spent together has been like we were courting.”

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