Crossover (Part 2)
Mariana was having a headache from stress in thinking about going out with a stranger. She swallowed half a dozen aspirins. She hadn’t made up her mind. She knew what he wanted and a lack of confidence in her part on an outcome as usual. He was blackmailing and she wanted to get hold of the film badly. Just one time and it would be over.
She called Jose Lucero, their coordinator and a Senior Executive at the Rogers Bank where Zaid Falak was involved in negotiations with his deals.
“I need to talk,” she said in a frail voice.
“Is something wrong?”
“I want to go out somewhere to play tennis and we can talk.”
“I do like to play tennis. It’s a cool day. I know a good place called The Lynch Club in Quilmes. I’ll make a reservation. I’ll pick you up at five,” Lucero told her.
“Make it at four. It is very important.”
He pulled the car to a side and obtained the number. He dialled the club and booked with a changing room for the puritanical woman thoughtfully.
Jamal tried many times but he couldn’t reach Lopez. Finally, he came ten minutes past two with the orchid. “Damn! Where have you been?”
Lopez replied, “I had to go to another market to find this particular orchid.” He produced a long stem with a bunch of flowers, “A Gavilia venosa.”
“Let’s go!” Both climbed the Dodge and raced to the Malibet. “You know, it’s not voodoo that brings her here. It’s the edge…the photographs.”
“This orchid, once you pass it on, she grows an urge to have you. This builds a bridge and in a week…”
“And an evil one too, I know. Damn! But I don’t have time, Diego. I’m going to sink her, tell her that I will publish her images on La Nacion.” He slowed down at the Malibet, peering at the tables one after another. He noticed three girls in Boduin robes seated inside the café. “I think she’s there. You stay in the van and watch carefully.”
“Don’t lose yourself!” Lopez reminded.
Jamal managed to bring her out and sit by an open table. He gave the orchid. She asked for the film.
“Hang on! This isn’t fair. I give it for a proper date in appropriate clothes.”
She said, “You give it to me first, then I go on a date with you.”
Lopez saw the camera on the backseat. He tried to zoom in the faces. He even captured few shots. The pair ordered drinks and they were having them.
After some talks Jamal reached a conclusion to say those prints could go on public.
Mariana eventually agreed, “You must promise to give me the film. I will go out today with you.”
“That’s fine. What time shall I come?”
“Five. And please don’t call. I will be down at the waters.”
“You promise…a fine date?”
She replied, “Read my face,” and gave that nod raising her eyebrows repetitiously in a tease and Jamal took it for a positive gesture.
“Well, how old are you?”
“What about this marriage?”
“I was seventeen. It was an arranged-marriage. My dowry was a house where my parents are living.”
“And you still haven’t got kids?”
“Do you seek blind dates after wedlock?”
She shrugged, “Yes, sometimes.”
Jamal wrapped the meeting and watched her go in the wrap.
He reached the van, “She’s going out with me.”
“I told you,” uttered Lopez, “the orchid…”
“It’s not that, fat ass!” Jamal silenced him, “It’s the Devil’s edge…the film.”
“I shot some photos on your camera.”
“Good,” he praised, “I have to buy a shirt.”
He stopped at a boutique on the way. He failed to agree with a colour. Lopez honked as he was getting late to begin this ritual. For him it wasn’t an appropriate time for his sorcery to kick in but Jamal was anguish about the girl. Jamal cashed for a maroon-coloured shirt and a bottle of Smirnoff. He drove home in high spirit.
Sharp at four, Mariana climbed down the stairs and asked the girl at the counter, “Où est Andrés?” She wore a tennis outfit and carried a tennis kit. The girl at the counter was shocked, “Are you going out, señora?”
"Yes. Jose is coming,” Mariana spoke softly.
“Andrés will be here in a minute,” said Elena.
“I stay here,” the tall girl pointed at the office door because she wanted to hide from the maids if they appeared downstairs.
“Sure, please feel comfortable.”
Andrés arrived in a while and noticed she was in a nervous state. “Do you want a drink?”
“Yes please, a Fernet-coke, very strong.”
“I’ll be back,” he said.
Mariana waited for forty minutes. On the back of her mind she wanted to get away before Jamal called. She did not say yes orally but nodded to trick him off. She knew she could escape because a date was arranged with Jose Lucero.
He turned up late. It was Saturday and he fared in fast driving to catch some 17 miles. It was annoying rather. But seeing the girl in a short tennis dress, it took him by surprise. She was ready set for a date.
“Why are you late?” she asked.
“It’s the traffic. You choose your apparels well, señora. You are gorgeous,” Lucerno expressed.
“Call me Mary.” She glanced to see if there was any sign of Jamal. Andrés gave a hand with her kit. She dropped her long legs into the front seat of his Daytona Spider and they drove off, five minutes to five.
“Did you have a drop?” he asked in discovering the new girl in Mariana.
“A drink, I can smell.”
“Yes, I have. I was having a headache.”
“What is it bothering you?”
“I will tell you later,” said Mariana.
Jamal was there twenty minutes before time waiting impatiently and in his new shirt that made him uneasy. He observed the convertible driven up to the entrance beyond the swimming pool. The girl appeared with Elena and Andrés carrying her bag. The newcomer stepped out of the car to receive her briefly.
Jamal zoomed in his camera clicking photos and in colour. They climbed the car and sped away.
“Damn!” he cried. It was the blindest of blind dates. Things turned so fast he was at loss. He wanted to go in and ask the front desk about this new guy. In second thoughts he decided to follow the car. He ran back to the van. In a moment he climbed La Plata and failed to catch them. Jamal stopped at a booth to call Lopez.
“She cheated,” he grumbled, “she’s out dating some other guy.”
“Calm down, Mr Carreon!” Lopez was in awe and he never smiled. “You have to be patient.” He knew magic could trigger a fire in her with another mate if she was in such a relationship. Lopez was engaged in pinning the doll. “It is not supposed to work today or tomorrow but in a week…”
“You screwed it up!” he hung up.
Jamal returned home, poured vodka in orange juice as he ran out of tomato juice. He hung the shirt on a hook on the toilet door that opened against the wall. He switched on the red lamp and got busy developing the films, the shots from the Malibet and frames of the new guy in full colour this time.
He still got a plan. He rang Roco and asked to meet in Bernal.
It was getting late but Jamal in the Dodge raced up the streets to Bernal. Somewhere on a road junction he came across a heavy truck pulling back. He drove the van between the truck and a wall, impatiently, trying to find way through. The truck driver wouldn’t give him an inch pulling the truck backwards slowly. Jamal blasted the honk. He couldn’t open the door, couldn’t get out. He was stuck.
“Idiot!” the truck driver cursed. He pressed on the gas and released the big wheels moving the truck backwards bit by bit cramming the van against the wall, scratching paint. Angry voices exchanged and eventually the truck driver gave space.
Jamal slipped away, perhaps, learning a lesson. His van making some noise, he drove the extra mile and arrived at the restaurant next to a garage. Roco reached him, “Did you run into traffic?”
“A truck jammed me up against a wall. Look, what he’s done to my Dodge!” cried Jamal.
“Do you want me to fix it?”
"No. Leave it. I have important matter to deal.”
“What is it?” Roco asked.
“I want to dig this girl. She’s Arab. Her husband is rich, currently abroad. She’s dating this guy. I don’t know him. You’ll have to find out. Her name is Mariana, staying at the Palmera.” He produced the photos, some selected ones.
“What is in it for me?”
“Fifty thousand dollars…”
“That’s a lump sum. I’m sold. What exactly do you want me to do?”
Jamal Carreon told him the plan.
“Do you have any connection to this girl?” he asked.
“No,” Jamal denied.
“Good. I will find about her.”
“I insist I do the negotiation.”
“Do you have a plan, Mr Fish?”
“Of course, they drop and we drop the girl.”
"Fine,” Roco said, “Let’s dine!”
Jamal joined him at the Asado for dinner.
Jose Lucero found pleasure having this girl in his company playing tennis, drinking and dining. The Lynch Club was a motel with day rooms to let. He ended up in conducting adultery with the girl in the changing room. Mariana told him of the guy taking photos and threatening to blackmail her for sex. She had shown the photographs that she carried in her tennis kit. Lucero promised to check her out every day to play tennis at the club despite his busy schedule at the bank, the miles to run and keeping with his family.
Torres, the club manager, suspected a secret affair and an unusual intimacy between the two and for three days continuously.
Diego Lopez was deeply concentrating sticking pins to the doll; pink and red. As time passed Mariana’s sex drive reached such heights that Lucero felt scared, intolerable and often killing him. Mariana reached the hotel every night half an hour late. Now she carried the robe to put on entering the hotel and seeing to dinner immediately. Rumours sparked and Lucero was having a hard time, his backbone ached but he couldn’t resist his desire.
Roco managed to find their whereabouts and planted a photographer to take pictures of them playing tennis at the club’s court. He contacted his boss and agent, Carlos Alvieri, a beast of a man, to obtain more information about the Arab group at the Palmera Club and Jamal had no knowledge about it.
On the fourth day, Tuesday, Lucero sat at the bank undecided but packed with his sports kit and topped with a supplement to boost his energy. He never betrayed his wife and family or his job; this has to stop. He would call and shake this off making an excuse of a late afternoon meeting. Sharp at four, he was on the motorway driving to Quilmes at top speed.
Mariana and Lucero shared a drink at the open bar counter. He asked, “Is the guy still bothering you?”
Mariana said, “No. He hasn’t shown up.”
“I will come to see you next at the weekend. I have work to do. I must leave early.”
“Okay. Shall we?”
They entered the changing room at sunset and for an hour they had sex. She was wild and he knew he would be back the very next day. Torres noticed that the pair only spent thirty minutes on the court.
Fifteen minutes later, Lucero drove out of The Lynch Club over a narrow trail. A white colour station wagon was blocking their path. Another car pulled up right behind. A couple of guys reached the convertible and in a flash knocked him out. Mariana screamed aloud but cut short as she too was knocked out. There were some four guys face covered in balaclava masks. They dragged the tall girl into the wagon. Lucero was dumped in the brush. Blood spilled everywhere. These rogues left him free of bonds in the hurry. Under five minutes those vehicles climbed the streets and took different routes. One of them was driving the Ferrari.
Mariana regained consciousness to find her lying on her back between the seats in the van. She was gagged, her wrists and ankles tied. One of them pressed down his boot placed on her belly. She could see lights of a stadium as they were still on the move. She closed her eyes.
Ten minutes later, they arrived at a place amply lit. She could hear rolling doors. Those guys covered her face, pulled her out and carried her down the corridors to a hidden location in the temperature-controlled cool room. It was a massive storage facility for packing and storing meat, extremely cold inside. A couple of guys undid her bonds, locked her in chains fastened to a steel pole. She lay on the white tiles to the breadth of the floor. Her dress stained in blood.
They treated a bruise on her forehead and wrapped a bandage. Then they left turning out some lights but leaving enough lit around her. She figured her gold beaded, exotic and pricey, micro string was gone, along with her jewellery and the watch.
Lucero woke finding him logged in the bushes. It was dark. He gathered himself, checked the time, half past eight. They kidnapped the girl. He lost his car. He observed the tyre marks in the dim lights that lit the trail. He ran back to the club. Torres saw him hobbling to the reception and knew at once his dirty affair had blown up right in his face. They called in the police.
In twenty-six years of his career, he never faced any worse situation such as this. He was losing his wife, his client and employer. Everyone asked this question: What was he doing out with her? Police quickly learned about this secret affair from interviews with the staff, the manager and Lucero who reluctantly parted with his story. He mentioned a suspect by the name of Jamal, a photographer. There wasn’t a clue to show substantial connection to anyone else but Lucero and clear evidence of forensic left behind in the room they shared. He was taken into police custody. At least, it was better for the moment rather than having conversations on the phone with people concerned in his immediate circles. Fate twisted quite dramatically to bring him shame and pain. He was in tears.
Midnight, at the Palmera Club, lights turned on and the shadowy figures of the black robes appeared on the top floor windows and balconies. Police passed in to check on Mariana’s belongings. Staff at the Palmera described a person that supported Lucero’s story of a photographer involved. This new suspect was building its case and a face on the drawing board with help from Elena, the receptionist. Police looked in at the operator-controlled telephones for in-coming and out-going calls. Police failed to find anything to tie Mariana with any kind of misconduct. Police did not interview the maids, they wouldn’t talk. The hunt was on for a station wagon, a Malibu sedan, the Ferrari and now a photographer.