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Chapter 20

Havana, Cuba

Sunshades, shirts and shorts, and with a cup of mojito in hand, Ricardo and Megan looked just like every other normal tourist couple in the roadside restaurant they sat down to wait for Ricardo’s contact, Sammy on the sunny afternoon.

However, anyone who took a closer look at the duo would realize that there was nothing normal- or coupling- about them.

For starters, they had barely said a word to one another for the past half an hour they had been seated together; or smiled; or shared any facial expression for that matter that would indicate that they even knew of their proximity to one another. All Megan did was concentrate on the fashion magazine in front of her without turning a page, and Ricardo’s attention was on his phone; holding the device up to put down again every five minutes like he was searching for a signal.

Also, while the two were seemly not paying the slightest attention to one another, they showed too much of it to the other occupants of the restaurant. Behind the facade of reading the magazine, Megan’s eyes darted to and fro everyone sitting in tables around them: who they were, what they ordered, what their facial expressions told of what they were saying; and sometimes she was actually able to overhear their conversations in its entirety. In short, she was getting a read on the personality of the other couples in the restaurant.

Ricardo, on the other hand, was more hands-on in his approach. Under the guise of taking a selfie or landscape shot, he would capture the faces of a couple of people in the restaurant and then use a facial recognition software app on his phone connected to Os Buscadores’ global servers to find out who they were and if there was anything of noteworthy interest about them.

So far, no one had stood out for the couple.

“Are you sure your friend is going to show up, Mr. DiSanto?” Megan suddenly asked after taking a quick glance at her watch. “I mean, it’s been almost an hour since we got here and still, nothing.”

“He’ll show,” he assured her, checking his phone to seemly confirm it, “Sammy’s just used to being a bit of a latecomer, that’s all.”

“A bit of a latecomer” was certainly not what Megan would choose to describe someone who left her waiting for about an hour. More like an uncivilized, unprofessional entity, if you asked me, she thought to herself, very annoyed.

Truth be told though, it wasn’t that she minded so much that Sammy was late. In fact, if she was being honest, he had the furthest thing from her mind before she mentioned him. What bothered her was the company he had forced her in: Ricardo’s.

Thing is, after the Rio mission and the “whirlwind of emotions” affair that was the interrogation afterwards, Megan had been having a sort of mixed feelings about Ricardo.

On one hand, despite the fact that their meeting had all been because of Item 13, it still brought a smile to her face whenever she thought of their conversation together and the fun they had had at the party, which if she was being honest, was the first she had in a very long time.

However, that train of thought always led her to the other hand where she recalled that Ricardo was just blatantly manipulating her throughout the entire encounter and she couldn’t trust any single thing he said or did even as the aura she had gotten from him then- and still did whenever she stopped to observe him- testified to his sincerity. Hence, her dilemma.

God, this is annoying! She slammed the table with her fist, startling everyone in the restaurant, including Ricardo.

“Megan, are you okay?” he asked, looking somewhat worried.

“Of course, I am,” she returned, her snap much harsher than she had thought it would sound.

Immediately, murmurs began to travel around the room and looks their way. They’re think we’re having a lover’s spat, Megan realized, mentally shaking her head at the irony.

Anyway, she concentrated back on her magazine, finally turning the page and everything returned to quiet around them.

However, Ricardo wasn’t ready to drop the issue then. “You know, I don’t get you,” he said, causing Megan to look up again.

“Excuse me?” She quirked an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, you go all civil with me, making it feel like you don’t care one way or another how things got to where they were with us. But out of nowhere, you suddenly act out like you just did. I can’t follow it.”

Megan looked taken aback by the remark and she paused for a few seconds, seemly not knowing how to respond. But then, she scoffed and shook her head like that was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.

“I hate to break it to you, Mr. DiSanto, but not everything is about you, certainly not when it comes to me,” she said and made an exaggerated show of returning to her magazine.

But he put his hands over and snatched it away from her front. “This is about me,” he said, “about us. I think it’s best we talk about it.”

Megan sighed, looking up at Ricardo like she wasn’t exactly sure what to do with him.

Thing is, the aura she read about him then was that he really wanted to talk, or at least hear her talk about what their encounter meant now that the truth of it was out, but as with everything that concerned the both of them, she wasn’t sure if she could trust her judgment anymore and that infuriated her a lot.

“You want to know what I think about you, huh, Mr. DiSanto?” Megan finally said after a while. “It’s that I can’t trust you.”

“And I, you, to be honest,” he returned, “but I want to try anyway.”

There it is again, Megan groaned in her head, the honesty vibe. Ricardo looked so open as he spoke that she suddenly had the urge to go in and experience all that was within him to be experienced. But it was a trap, she knew; and one she would do well not to fall in again.

Just then, the moment got interrupted as a Jeep parked in front of the restaurant with a rev. A burly, fully bearded African-American man stepped out it, flanked by two men in leather jackets. A couple of bikes also parked alongside the Jeep and the men on them highlighted to enter into the restaurant after the new arrival.

Sammy, Megan recognised him immediately. The entrance was certainly worthy of someone who was no stranger to getting attention.

“Mr. Sammy,” a Cuban man came out to welcome him with a hug, smiling like a Cheshire cat all the way.

“I already told you times without number that it’s just Sammy, Dani,” he returned. “My name’s just Sammy.”

““Mr. Sammy” sounds fancier.” He smiled again.

Immediately, Sammy whispered something into Dani’s ears and he turned to the couples in the room. “I’m sorry but this restaurant is about to be closed for a private function,” he said, “but don’t worry, Mr. Sammy here has offered to pay for everything you consumed.”

A lot of murmurs went around as everyone looked at one another, which was only logical as no one liked to be chased out from their spots regardless of the reason. But free meals also didn’t come every day so the protests didn’t last as they should under the circumstance.

The restaurant was soon cleared out as Sammy took a seat on a table by the road, and Megan and Ricardo went to join him.

“Rick,” he greeted the moment Ricardo came over, standing up to meet him with a bear hug. “Tell me, have you been waiting long?”

“Not long at all, Sammy,” he returned, although the short laugh the latter returned showed that he didn’t believe it one bit.

Just then, Sammy seemed to notice Megan for the first time and he stopped short. “Who’s the pretty lady?” He whistled as he took her hand for a kiss.

“Megan Months,” she introduced herself, trying to get her hand quickly out of his but he prevented it. “I’m Mr. DiSanto’s psychologist.”

“For this occasion though, let’s refer to her as my partner.” Ricardo put his hand over Sammy’s and gave it a strong squeeze to force his hand off Megan’s.

Sammy gave another short laugh. “You’re always one to do things in a special way, aren’t you, Rick?” He shook his head like it was the most perplexing thing he had seen in his lifetime. “Coming to a business meeting with your psychologist- I mean, “partner.””

“And speaking of business,” Ricardo steered the conversation to the matter at hand, “have you looked into what I asked you?”

“Oh, your missing cargo in the Arctic.” He stroked his beard as he talked. “Well, I have something for you.”

Just as Sammy was about to expatiate though, a bike suddenly came out nowhere and crashed into the restaurant, hitting of one of Sammy's men to send him flying into the wall and down for the count.

The biker jumped off the bike before it fell, rolled to his feet, took out a gun, and fired three shots to take out the three remaining men before they even had a chance to orient themselves to what was happening; and then he faced the sitting trio, pointed the gun, and fired off another shot.

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