“Ouch.” Kip complained. “I think he’s aiming for holes and ruts.”
“Didn’t you eat in jail? You’ve gotten skinny. No wonder bumps hurt,” Rosa giggled.
“A bread and water diet will do that. I’ve been sleeping on a concrete floor, it’s a wonder I can feel anything.”
“Oh, baby.” Rosa was suddenly sympathetic. “Hold me.”
Kip snickered. “Yeah, yer soft.” He wrapped his arms around her and the incredibly bumpy didn’t seem as bad, but with Rosa and Kip locked in an embrace is was more like a funky dance. Finally she lifted her head away. “You didn’t tell me Giles was a woman.” Consuela Juanita Giles only went by her last name, claiming that she was named after her grandmother, a cruel joke. Giles never married, but trained as a Panamanian CIA operative and eventually hired by the US State Department as a Latin America specialist.
Rosa grinned. “A tall blond large breasted beautiful woman pressed into a size too small spandex dress. I think she wore the dark rimmed glasses to make her look official. What kind of spy work were you two doing?”
“It was long before I met you, and no, I didn’t ever get personal with her, not that me and about a dozen other aid workers might have thought about it, but I was more interested in staying alive in those days than in amorous affairs.” Kip momentary pushed away. “I know what you’re thinking. But, it was really hard to have any friends other than comrades when bullets and bombs were exploding all around our heads. Too many dying for even a quick relationship. I assume you had some time with her.”
Rosa nodded. “It has taken me months to even get an appointment in Giles office; and then I was put before some clerk or something. But, when I dropped your birth name a bubble burst and I was ushered into a conference room.”
“Yeah, I think I told you that.”
“The first thing Giles said when she entered the room was Michael Smith is dead.”
“I told her about the bones and she cleared the room and sat down at the table across from me. Like you told me to do, I told her everything. She didn’t know about, or at least pretended not to know about the money you’re holding. The only thing she asked was could I get to the money. I told her no, but I also told her about the jump drive, but just said you told me they were in a secure place. She said, good, cause someday they might be more valuable than the money.”
“Did you tell her about what happened in Florencia.”
“Yes. I told her all about the trouble in Costa Rica and you being put in jail for investigation of a murder. She made a call to someone and set up another meeting, and then after some comments about you being more trouble than you’re worth she instructed me to wait and then left the room. They brought me a bottle of water with a tray of cookies, cheeses and crackers and I just sat around for a couple of hours more, playing games on my phone, before a clerk came in and gave me some written instructions and a ticket to San Juan de Nicaragua airport for today. I stayed in Panama City last night and I flew here this morning. A car picked me up at the airport and brought me to a fruit stand near del Sur. I was told to get on this cart and here you are. Gosh, this spy stuff is fun.”
“Yeah, I think I just cashed in a whole bunch of markers.”
They hit a sharp bump.
“Wow, do you know where we’re going?”
She laughed. “Uh huh.” Rosa dug into her bag and came up with two folders and Kip’s passport and Costa Rica driver’s license. “I made a trip to Publica bank. I have ten thousand in US money and the passports. Oh, apparently your friend Jorge is no longer at the bank cause I dealt with the same woman, a certain Ms. Ortiz, at least that’s what she told me. Anyway, we’re boarding a merchant ship at the port; we’ll ride through Panama and eventually arrive in St. Croix, USVI; simply as Mr. and Mrs. on vacation. Gee Kip this spy stuff is really cool.” She handed Kip his passport and driver’s license and began to sort through her bag.
They hit a big bump and Rosa landed on top of Kip who chuckled, “Well, this is nice, not quite the mile high club, but any port in a storm.”
She kissed him. “This straw probably has bugs. We’ll have to be deloused at the port if I so much as un-tuck my shirt. So don’t even consider anything else.”
“Gee Mrs. Smith.”
She gently slapped Kip and then rolled off.
“Hey, what happened to our house?”
Rosa snuggled close to Kip’s chest and put her head just under his chin. “Paulo is leasing it sort of. He is also supervisor for all of the other properties, including his house, my house, and the apartment. Which by the way, are all rented, thanks to some help from a certain priest who knows folks. Anyway, Paulo looks after the house and properties in exchange for rent. Plus, he makes sure the grounds and facilities are kept up. Of course he and the yard man seem to have a lot to discuss.” She laughed. “Oh, he and Maria do not sleep in our bedroom. They created a separate quarters on the lower level beside the game room but Maria cooks in my kitchen.” She giggled, “Linda sublet her office and now she is working out of the pool house and living upstairs. She keeps the books and does the administrative work for the house and corporation as well as runs her law office.”
“Hey, what kind of law does she practice normally, she never says anything about clients.”
“Normally she writes regulatory opinion for government. A lot of paper she says, little contact, a bunch of research, and a perpetual income.” Rosa laughed.
“Where does that leave me?” Kip hugged Rosa a little tighter. “I mean they’ll notice at the jail that I’m gone. Linda brought in a trial lawyer cause she didn’t seem to have any pull with the court.”
Rosa laughed. “Well, yes and no. I was told that another prisoner was substituted for you. She didn’t know that was going to happen, apparently nobody we know did. Apparently, it was all arranged by your friend Giles.”
Kip shook his head. “You mean another man is going to jail in my place?”
Hopefully, Linda can explain it, once she figures it out. All I know is that a guy who was waiting on some investigation is where you were. Somehow he was transferred from Jaco to Florencia. Look at it this way, he’ll eat better and it’s less crowded, it’s a good deal for him. Your arrest and court records mysteriously disappeared. In a few months you can probably ease back into society. Giles said to keep clear for at least ten days. Besides, that nice detective told me that there was no way you could have killed CeCe, but life goes on. The question is why was she there anyway, in the pool house?”
“Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that.”
She patted Kip’s chest. “The corporation is earning so much that we are retaining tax money from rentals, first time we’ve had to do that, the rental company is actually growing.”
“Gee my new ownership is working so satisfactory. I manage really well from a prison cell.”
Rosa squinted her eyes. “Yeah, and you smell bad. Maybe we can get you a bath at the port. Or else I might push you into the bay.”
“I got hosed down at the prison, closest thing I’ve had to a bath in months.” Kip lifted his shirt and sniffed. “You’re right. I can even smell myself.”
The mule cart stopped and Kip looked out. “I think this is the end of the road.” Kip sniffed the air of the fisheries and the port, “This smells just as bad.”
Rosa picked up her head and sniffed. “You’ll fit in well here.”
Kip and Rosa slipped off the back of the cart and walked across a narrow highway. Rosa had a folder in her hands and quickly pulled out the instructions. “Daphne, a cargo ship. It should be in port. We are to go to the ramp and ask for Captain Heplan.”
Rosa led the way and they trudged though the stack of boxes and bright colored shipping crates. Thirty sweaty minutes later they arrived at the boarding ramp. Rosa presented the papers and Kip looked over her shoulder.
A man standing at the foot of the ramp looked at the papers and said something in a dialect Kip did not understand.
“He says to wait inside.”
Kip pointed to a decrepit building between the crates.
“I think that’s the dock house.” The building looked as though it could fall apart without much urging. It had only open windows and doors, the walls were just rotting wood, although it had a metal roof and several office type partitions. The floor contained an odd array of low benches. Rosa pulled Kip along and together they dropped onto a wooden bench. Rosa looked around and said, “Kip, there’s a restroom.” She pushed a suitcase to Kip. “Take your bag. Find some clothes and some soap and get cleaned up.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Kip, who was exhausted from lack of sleep, pulled his bag to the restroom leaving Rosa on the bench. Thirty minutes later he felt half way composed. He gathered up his belongings and left the restroom. Rosa was not on the bench.
“La Senora aqui? Sabes? (Is the lady here? Do you know?),” he asked a couple of men wandering around the building, but nobody claimed to have seen her. Kip ran out to the ship ramp and asked the man who had directed them originally. The man didn’t seem to remember the first encounter.
“She didn’t come up this ramp,” he said in English. Two hours later the ship departed just as the sun was setting, but Rosa still had not been found. All of her bags were gone also. Kip searched the building continually to no avail. By midnight the terminal was deserted, the building he was in was empty. An employee, Kip supposed, had locked office and restroom doors before he too mounted his motorcycle and noisily zoomed down the paved road. Kip sank onto the bench. Largely what he was left with was a warehouse type room with a dozen empty crates, a trash can and several benches. Kip stretched out on the bench and cried. “Where can she be?”
Somewhere in the jungle a monkey screamed.
Kip closed his eyes. “Not as comfortable as my prison pad.” He didn’t know how long he dozed but sometime in the wee hours somebody tapped his foot. Kip opened his eyes. The room was dark except for a yellow light outside of the sea facing door but he could make out the small frame of a child.
“Si?” He uttered.
The child said nothing just dropped an envelope on the floor and ran out of the building. Kip made no attempt to follow.
He sat up quickly not paying any attention to the pain in his back and neck. He shook the envelope out on the floor and gasped at the contents. It was his cell phone and Rosa’s smashed cell phone and passport. Kip picked up her phone and examined it.
“At least there’s no blood on it. I wonder if I can pull the Sim card or anything, I’ll have Paulo look at it.” His own cell phone dinged for a message. He retrieved it out of the envelope and opened the message—it was a video.
Rosa was crying. “Kip, I’m so sorry. They want a million American dollars. They took our travel money, but want the million. I don’t know how much is in the Scotia Bank bank account.” She stopped and looked up to someone speaking in Spanish. “You are to walk toward del Sur along the highway. If you contact the police or Army the deal is off and I am dead.” The message ended without further explanation just as Kips battery expired.
Kip looked at the phone and said to himself, “She only said Scotia Bank, that means they don’t know me, this is just a kidnapping. What am I saying? They kidnapped Rosa.”
He sat on the bench holding his face and tears welled up. Kip looked around, dawn was quickly approaching. He stood, picked up his travel bag and headed toward the paved road. Del Sur was north of where he stood, so he started walking.
Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles passed him in both directions as he walked, most speeding by, Kip figured he had walked a mile when a motorcycle slowed as it approached. The bike carried a rider who held out an arm with a paper sack. Kip grabbed the sack as the motorcycle continued on. He opened the bag and pulled out a long lock of black hair tied in a knot around Rosa’s wedding band.
“I gotta call Paulo, Marcos, or someone.” A folded sheet of instructions filtered to the ground. Kip’s panic almost made him miss the note.
“Go to Del Sur, red fishing boat. Eyes watch you.”
“I guess I keep walking.” Kip calculated he walked five miles before he saw the outskirts of del Sur, justifying his slow pace was half that of his normal walking, and from experience he knew he could travel about a mile in twenty minutes; the sun was fully up when he walked toward the docks, the humidity and heat became oppressive and because he had not eaten or had anything to drink since the truck ride on the mountain Kip began feeling lethargic. Finally he found a tree and collapsed at the base. The lapping water made his eyes heavy and he fell into an exhausted sleep. When he awoke again his travel bag and his shoes were gone.
To be continued ....