Juan was not sure which strategy was better—return to Becker’s and complain about the counterfeit cash, or just keep mum and let it go. It was as much money as his Camry had brought in, and now he was considering letting it go. But his resolve proved stronger, and the rush of doing the entire physical transformation also lurked. In the unlikely event that Becker considered reporting the purchase to the insurance companies, to return would really solidify that Mrs. Loret’s sale was legitimate.
He dressed again in his motel room and went to Becker’s. Inside, the young Mr. Becker was working a couple, and Juan began to look for an item in the range of fifteen hundred dollars to haggle down to the $1,180 he had in false money. He looked for a bracelet that held six or seven stones in two-carat size. He found a bracelet with a band of tiny diamonds surrounding four aquamarine stones. It was perfect, because the aquamarines were semiprecious and he could replace them with real diamonds. He noticed the gems’ shape matched some of the ones he had in his inventory. This bracelet would move four two-carat stones. It was priced at 20,000 pesos, which was equivalent to the price he was looking for in dollars. A young saleslady came up to him. Without looking up he talked to her as he pointed at the item.
“¿Puedo ver ese brazalete, por favor?” (May I see that bracelet, please?) Juan asked.
“Claro” (Of course), she replied.
The girl put it on the pad. Juan touched it and gently placed it on his palm. He realized he couldn’t try it on because lowering the sleeves on his blouse meant a hairy wrist would show.
“Me lo llevo” (I’ll take it), Juan said.
“¡Qué bien!” the saleswoman said, shocked at how easy that sale went.
“Digale al señor Becker que la viuda de Loret lo quiere ver para pagarle en efectivo.” (Tell Mr. Becker that the widow of Loret wants to see him, to pay him in cash.)
“El señor Becker no se encuentra.” (Mr. Becker is not in.)
“Lo estoy viendo ahi con esos clientes.” (But I can see him there talking to those clients.)
“Oh. Usted se refiere a Ricardo.” (Oh. You mean Ricardo.)
The saleswoman went to speak to Ricardo. He looked over and acknowledged Mrs. Loret. He took the bracelet from the girl and instructed her to keep tending to his clients, then made his way over to Juan.
“Señora Loret, qué rapido regreso.” (Mrs. Loret, you are back so soon.)
“Sí. Pense que debia regresarles el favor comprándoles algo. Me encanto esa pulsera.” (Yes. I thought I should return the favor by buying something. I love this bracelet.)
“Vale veinticinco mil.” (It’s twenty-five thousand.)
“Pues como ustedes no me pagaron el precio de venta, yo le quiero pedir un descuento. Le doy mil ciento ochenta dólares, que son como veinte mil.” (Well, you didn’t pay me retail so I would like a discount. I can give you one thousand one hundred and eighty dollars, it’s roughly twenty thousand.)
Ricardo paused and thought about the transaction. He was authorized to give discounts and hefty ones; all he had to do was read the code on the bracelet to see what the cost was. He looked at the piece and coyly saw the number code. The actual cost was about half of the list price. If he sold it to Mrs. Loret, he would have profited eight thousand pesos or about five hundred dollars in cash.
“Qué bien, me encanta. ¿Me la pone en una cajita bonita?” (Good, I love it. Can you put it in a nice box?)
“Por supuesto.” (Of course.)
Juan took out all the forged bills in a neat bundle and handed them to Ricardo.
“No a mi no. En la caja.” (No, don’t give it to me. To the cashier.) Ricardo said.
“Ricardo, esta compra es con usted. No necesito recibo” (Ricardo, this purchase is with you. I don’t need a receipt), Juan said, taking the little jewelry box Ricardo had prepared and handing him the money. Ricardo took the cash and put it in his folder, and Juan turned 180 degrees and went straight for the door.
Ricardo looked at Mrs. Loret, and his eyes immediately went to the other customers he was neglecting. He quickly went to the cashier and handed him the little white slip that he took from the bracelet and the cash. At that moment he saw that a small yellow light turned on in the showroom ceiling. It was an alert that Mr. Becker was in. He slipped past the customers, telling them they were in good hands with the saleswoman, and went upstairs.
“Pá” (Dad), Ricardo said, entering the office.
“¿Qué paso mi hijo?” (What happened, son?) Mr. Becker said from behind his desk.
“¿Te acuerdas de la señora. Loret? ¿La que dijo que nunca la veríamos por aquí otra vez?” (Do you remember Mrs. Loret, the lady who said she would never come back?)
“¿Sí, y? (Yes, and?)”
“Le acabo de vender un brazalete en veinte mil pesos.” (I just sold her a bracelet for twenty thousand pesos.)
The internal phone began to ring at Mr. Becker’s desk. He picked up, signaling to Ricardo to quiet down.
“¿Qué? ¿Cuántos? ¿Mil ciento ochenta? ¡No jodas!” (What? How much? One thousand one hundred and eighty! Fuck!) Mr. Becker hung up, furious.
“¿Qué paso?” (What happened?) Ricardo asked, white as a sheet and feeling the blood rush down from his head.
“¡Que te regreso todos los dolares falsos que le dimos, menso! ¡Eso paso!” (That she returned to us all the forged dollars we gave her! That’s what happened!)
Ricardo sat speechless in the chair in front of his dad’s huge desk.