Sancti Spiritus, Cuba
06:30 (11:30 GMT)
Voices, coming from the alley below, stirred Blake from his trance. He leaned forward to get a glance out the window. The sun had crested the horizon just a few minutes ago and the smell of beans, frittatas and other spices filled the warming air. He rubbed his eyes. The chair he’d slept in hadn’t been kind and he cocked his head from side to side in an effort to crack his neck.
He hated sleeping in the chair, especially when there was a bed available, but he wanted to make sure he could get away fast. As he gazed out the window, he could see Adriana and Javier loading supplies and food in the back of the truck. Blake sprung to his feet, grabbed his things and left the room.
The woman behind the desk wiped what seemed like a clean counter. Blake suspected it was just her way to try and look busy.
“What time will you be back for dinner, Señor?
“Sorry, but I’m checking out,” he said as he rushed by her. She put her head down and went back to her work.
The sun hit his eyes and he quickly lowered his sunglasses. He tossed his bag into the back of the car and got in before Adriana came back out and recognized him. She needed to be alone before he could approach her. The last thing he needed was to be interrupted by Javier. A blank cloud filled his mind. The canvas of what he needed to tell her was clean, so he decided to follow them as he thought.
They headed south on highway 12 toward the small city of Bango. The traffic was light, so he did his best to keep his distance. About twenty kilometers outside of Sancti Spiritis they turned off the main highway. Another eight kilometers, they made a left turn onto an unpaved road.
Blake decided it was best to keep his distance, so he drove past the unpaved road and waited for about a minute before he turned the car around and followed. The dust hadn’t settled from when they drove through, so it made following them easy. The dust also provided him some cover in case they looked in their mirrors.
After a few kilometers, a few buildings came into view and beyond that, there was an open field of tobacco. It was known that the wealthy tobacco farmers would put up shanty towns of shacks and other poorly constructed buildings for their workers to live in. The idea was that if the workers lived on the plantation, they would never be late to work. They could start early and finish late; making just enough to survive while the tobacco farmers got rich exporting their famous Cuban cigars. Blake imagined how hard of a life that must be.
He parked his car in a grove of trees on the south side of the road and walked the rest of the way. As he approached the village, he could see Adriana and Javier’s truck parked next to an open air building, like a pavilion that you’d find in any city park, near the edge of the road. Inside it, Adriana set out her supplies.
Blake observed as she gave inoculations to the children in a kindly fashion. She spent extra time to nurture the ones that cried. He admired her dedication and thoughtfulness to her mission. She was truly a blessing to the people she cared about. Blake felt the butterflies in his stomach. How in the world am I going to do this? I don’t think I’ve ever been so damn nervous.
After she gave a shot to the last child, she turned and mumbled something to Javier. Javier nodded and went off in the other direction while she walked to the truck. Finally. Well, it’s now or never.
She finished putting something in the front seat of the truck, backed out and closed the door. When she turned to walk back to the pavilion, Blake stepped out from his hiding place. Facing her back, he spoke.
She stopped. Her head didn’t twist to look back. After a long moment, her hands at her sides balled into fist.
Why doesn’t she say something? I know she knows it’s me. As Blake started to speak, she spun around, took three quick steps and slapped him in the face. “You son of a bitch!”
Blake could have easily blocked her from hitting him, but he knew that from her point of view, he deserved it. He also hoped that it might let off some of her steam. He was wrong. She started to pound him in the chest. “You bastard! I know what you did! Who the hell do you think you are?”
She reared back to hit him again. “I hate you!” Those words hit harder than her fists. Blake refused to take anymore. He grasped her arm and said, “I completely understand why you hate me, but after I tell you what you need to hear, I think—no hope, that you’ll change your mind. You need to give me a minute to explain.”
Adriana stepped back and glared at Blake; her eyes narrow and teeth clinched. An uninvited pest on her arm felt her full wrath as she squashed it with her other hand. “What do you mean? Who are you?” She raised her arm and pointed to Blake. “And do not lie to me. I am sick of these lies!”
Javier ran over. “Adriana, are you ok? Who is this?”
“He’s the bastard that killed my father.”
Javier confronted Blake. “I think that you need to leave.”
Blake said, “Listen, I just need to speak to her.”
Javier came at Blake and pushed him. “You need to leave, now!”
Blake held up his hands and said, “Listen, I don’t want any trouble, but I need to speak to her. It’s urgent. There are things she doesn’t know.”
“All you need to know is that she doesn’t want you here! Now, you need to go!”
Javier lunged at Blake.
Blake dodged and grabbed Javier’s arm and twisted his wrists back behind him.
He kicked the back of Javier’s legs out from under him and had him on the ground in less than a second.
Javiar winced. “You’re hurting me!”
Blake looked up at Adriana and said, “Listen, I know there are terrible things that you think I’ve done, but you don’t know the truth. I came back here because there are things that you need to know.”
Her stare was cold and hateful.
He could sense she needed more. I have to tell her everything. “Ok, my real name is Blake MacKay and I work for the CIA. Will you please listen?”
“Ok, Blake. You’re hurting me,” Javiar pleaded.
“If I let you up, will you be a good boy?”
“Yes,” said Javier. Blake released his arms and then helped him up.
Adriana scoffed at Blake, “How do I know that you’re just not lying to me again? How do I know your name isn’t really Jeff or Steve or something else entirely? You need to prove to me that you’re telling the truth.”
“Okay,” Blake said. “Fair enough. Did you notice that your charity’s bank account got a whole lot bigger after all this went down?”
She paused for a moment. Her eyes looked in deep thought. “Yes.”
Blake continued, “And by how much?”
“You seem to know so much, why don’t you tell me?”
“Fine. How’s ten million bucks grab ya?”
She scrunched her lips and squinted. “Put there by my father in case something like this happened.”
Blake shook his head. “No—no it wasn’t. I did it. I asked specifically for money that was seized to be put into your account.”
Adriana stood frozen as she contemplated what Blake had just said.
“If you want, I can tell you the bank, its address and even your account number. But I did it Adriana. Not your father.”
Adriana glared at Blake. “You killed my father! Do you deny that? Why did you do that, you… you bastard! I trusted you.”
This isn’t going well. Blake put his hands to his face in frustration. “Errrrrrrr! Adriana! He literally had a gun to my head and was planning on shooting me dead. Allow me to at least tell you what happened. Besides, there are very important things that you just don’t know.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose as he glanced back at her to get a read on what she was thinking.
“You want more? I can tell you what happened to your mother.”
She crossed her arms in front of her. The right side of her mouth curled up with arrogant confidence. “My mother abandoned me. She left me a hateful note telling me so.”
Shaking his head, Blake said, “No! That’s what you’re father wanted you to believe. If you want the truth, you’ll have to listen to me.”
What seemed like forever, she stood statuesque. Finally, she unfolded her arms. “Ok, I will listen to what you have to say, but only for a moment.”
“Thank you.” He motioned down the road. “Do you have a few moments to walk with me so we can talk privately?”
Javier reached out to Adriana. She shook it away. He gave Adriana a look of concern.
“Its okay, Javier. Can you please take the additional box of medicine to the pavilion? I won’t be long,” she said in a matter of fact, tone.
Javier nodded, bent down and grabbed the box and walked off, looking over his shoulder at them.
“Come on. Let’s walk,” Blake said.
They strolled along the road, past the village before Blake started to speak. He’d run through what he was going to say on the ride over and had so much to tell her. But would it be enough? Would she help him, and most of all, forgive him?
He told Adriana about the things her father was involved in; the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, al Hamwi, al Qaeda, as painful as it was for her to hear, it was something that she needed to know.
Her gaze; how it stared off onto the horizon with no particular focus. The tears welling up in the corners of her eyes; he could tell that she had no clue about any of this.
She finally turned to him and asked, “Can you prove that all of this is true?”
Blake sighed. “I have detailed files going back at least twenty years. I have them on my laptop and I will show them to you, if you want. They’re not just files, but pictures of your father with Cartel leaders, statements from witnesses that mysteriously disappeared before any charges could have been brought forth. It would probably take you days, if not weeks to sift through all that we have.”
Her eyes darted back and forth at the ground. She was trying to take it all in.
Blake’s strategy was simple; the more he could get her to hate her father, the faster she would forgive him and the more willing she’d be to help. He could sense her internal struggle of untwisting the memories of who she thought her father was with the new details of what he was really like. And now, the bombshell.
He told her about how her father was responsible for her mother’s disappearance after she went to the authorities and turned him in. They stopped under some trees for shade.
“I just can’t believe it all—I mean—I suppose I had my suspicions, but I had no idea he was involved that deep.”
“I know that this is a lot to take in, but please believe me. As I said, I have detailed files. Everything that I’ve told you, I have documented proof.”
Her eyes reluctantly moved towards Blake’s. Tears rolled down her cheeks. “My mother. He killed my mother.” She cupped her hands and covered her face as she started to cry.
The pain must have been unbearable. To learn these things about your father had to be weighing extremely heavy on her, but this was exactly what he wanted. Soon, her sorrow would turn to anger and as if on cue, her ire raised to a level that Blake was even shocked to see.
She bent down and picked up a fallen branch. She swung it at the base of the tree yelling expletives in Spanish so quickly; Blake could only make out a few words. She screamed and after the forth swing, the branch finally relented to its beating and snapped in half.
She breathed heavily and bent over to catch her breath. Her face rest in the palms of her hands and she began to weep again.
His hand rested softly on her shoulder. “Adriana, I am really sorry for the deception. And I am really sorry to be the one that is telling you all of this. I can assure you that the feelings that I projected toward you were genuine. I truly cared. That’s what made this so difficult for me.”
She lifted her head from her hands and gazed deep into his eyes. “Cared?”
Blake paused before answering. He admired her for giving him this chance. If he could only tell her what he was really feeling.
“You know what I mean. I still care or I wouldn’t have had that money deposited and I wouldn’t be here now.”
She lifted her hair and fanned her neck with it. “Do you? Do you really care or is that just another line?”
Before he could answer, she asked the question that he knew he would have to answer.
“Blake. I have to know. Did you kill my father?”
The urge to look away was strong, but he knew how that would be interrupted. Taking a deep breath, he said, “I did. I can’t apologize for killing him. I was doing my job. But I am sorry for the man he turned into. I can only image how tough this is for you.”
Adriana stared at Blake for what seemed an eternity. Her green eyes were full of pain and sadness. The joy that once filled them was gone. Another tear formed in the corner, and her lips tightened.
“I…I forgive you.” She took a deep breath and reached out to embrace him. “That was actually easier than I thought. It’s so much easier to forgive than to hate. That is the Christian thing to do. Can we walk some more? I need to know more.”
Blake was shocked at how easily she accepted his apology. All of the worry and anxiety seemed to fade away. She was truly a remarkable woman.
They continued to walk and came to a barn that was used during the tobacco harvest. They strolled under a shaded area used to park tractors that were used on the plantation. Adriana sat on the bench of a picnic table and Blake got up and sat on the table with his feet on the bench.
She straightened up, cleared he throat while she wiped away her tears. “What do you want from me? Why are you here?”
After a deep breath, he said, “I need your help.”
She cocked her head and brushed the hair from her face. “What can I do to help you? I had nothing to do with anything that my father did.”
“I know you didn’t, but I’m hoping that you can give me some information that might help me to stop something that could potentially be disastrous.”
Adriana shook her head and said, “I still don’t see how I can help.”
“Your father got his hands on a very deadly weapon. I won’t go into the details, but imagine hundreds, even thousands of grenades and bullets being fired into a crowd of thousands of innocent people.” He paused to let the thought sink in. “Now imagine all of those thousands of grenades and bullets being fired into the crowd in just under a few seconds.”
She didn’t say anything and allowed him to continue.
“Your father sold that weapon to a known al Qaeda weapons dealer named Zahmir al Hamwi.”
Adriana put her hand on Blake’s knee. She straightened up as if a distant memory slammed into the forefront of her mind. “That name. I’ve heard that name before.”
“Really? That’s great! What can you remember? The slightest bit of information could potentially be very helpful.”
The morning that I woke up…after… after you killed my father, I had no idea what had happened. I looked for Luca but didn’t find him. That’s when another one of my father’s men told me that he too had been killed.”
“Luca was killed? How?” Maybe I killed him when I was trying to get away.
“A middle eastern man and his crew showed up for something. That was his name, al Hamwi.”
This was a breakthrough. It was confirmation that al Hamwi was there and picked up the weapon. He can now start a timeline and begin to track him.
“Is that it? How did he show up? Trucks? By boat, by…”
“Yes. By boat. They loaded their shipment on a boat.”
“Adriana, this is valuable information. I need you to tell me anything that you can about that boat.”
“Like I said, when I woke up, I was really drowsy, almost like I’d been drugged.” She then gave Blake an evil stare.
Blake lied. “It must have been the champagne. I felt the same way.”
“I went outside and the sun had just started to come up and I did see a boat anchored in the harbor.”
“Adriana, this is important. What did it look like? Was it a yacht, a large trawler or a cargo ship perhaps?”
“Oh, it was most definitely a cargo ship. Not a giant one. I think I remember seeing maybe—three cranes on it?”
“Three. Are you sure?”
Adriana shifted her gaze out over the fields for a few seconds. “Yes. There were three. I’m positive.”
Blake stood up and dusted off his hands. “Okay, this is a good start. Now, try to think. Did your father keep any personal journals or laptops or tablets anywhere other than the safe in his office, his desk in his bedroom or the warehouse?”
Adriana shook her head, “No, but….”
“I got a letter from my bank stating that a safe deposit box in my name was being held pending an investigation.”
“Did you know you had a safe deposit box?”
She thought for a second and said, “Yes, but I’d forgotten about it. My father got it for me shortly after we built the estate. I kept one of two keys in my jewelry box in my room.”
“And where is that jewelry box now?”
“It’s at Javier’s.”
Blake grabbed her hand and pulled her off the table. “Come on, we gotta go.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the bank.”