Fifteen Days From Now
The warm spring night was perfect and lured Felipe outdoors into the garden. He had been unable to sleep, his mind running over and over the problem that was Antonio Montoya, so he took refuge among the plants he saw as his own.
“Good evening, my beauties,” he crooned to the daffodils, tulips, and alliums in full bloom. Even in the dark, the bright yellow of the daffodils could not be defeated, and the low, ground-facing indirect lighting cast just enough glow to show a splash of red and purple here and there. The sound of the fountain soothed him as he fretted over what course of action he should take.
Antonio was a hopeless case, he had to admit. He had done his best with him since he was a boy, but to no avail. He was lured by money, the easier the better, and indulged in a rich lifestyle whether he had the means to support it or not. And his wife was no better; she might even be worse. Their spendthrift ways were a source of concern to Montoya’s uncle and benefactor, Hector Aguado, who was also Felipe’s oldest friend and benefactor as well.
And something was going on. Don Hector had given Antonio a respectable position with a similarly respectable salary, but no more, until he proved himself. Instead, he had become more indolent by the month, yet his income seemed to increase anyway. Where was it coming from? So Don Felipe had engaged his own associates and done a little investigating, and what he had learned had taken his breath away. Not only was Antonio undoubtedly laundering money through his stores―there was nothing wrong with that, and it showed a little bit of enterprising spirit―but he also seemed to have become involved in human trafficking.
Don Felipe—and for that matter, Don Hector—could understand the profit motive behind prostitution. To them, everyone won for a little work. But Don Hector absolutely drew the line at human trafficking. He was a proud descendant of the Taino tribes of the Caribbean, and in honor of his ancestors’ suffering he would countenance no involvement in the slavery business. And yet, that is what Felipe had uncovered. He wasn’t quite sure if it was Antonio or someone else running the cash through his stores, but the flow was considerable, and undoubtedly supported their lifestyle. But if not Antonio, who could it be? Sofia? He shook his head. That little rich girl didn’t have enough brains or initiative to pull such a thing off, he was sure. All she cared about was spending it.
Regardless of whoever else was involved, Antonio had to go. He shook his head regretfully, but the decision was unalterable. He would telephone Don Hector in the morning. This could not go on. Don Hector would be furious, but better he should know now than be surprised later.
As he pulled the few tiny weeds that had the nerve to pop up in his garden, Felipe heard a rustle that interrupted his musings. He turned toward the Fatsia, tenderly stroking its leaves as he always did, and looked into the darkness. Hearing nothing more, he shrugged and moved on to the miniature trimmed boxwoods lining the crown of the path’s low brick wall. He ran his hand delicately along the smooth stubble of its top leaves, murmuring, “Hola, cariña” as he wandered on. Again he heard something, and paused and looked sharply around him. He doubled back, senses alert, but again found nothing out of order other than perhaps a slight scent not born of a flower. It bothered him; what was it? Turning back to his walk, he approached the sharp turn of the path and stooped to take in the sweet scent of an early lily. “Ahh.” He smiled and breathed in the sweet fragrance, not knowing it was to be his last breath.
The knife that descended quickly from behind and pierced his carotid artery was withdrawn just as quickly, and Felipe fell, fainting as his beating heart relentlessly moved his lifeblood out of the wound and onto the moist ground. As it poured out, the last conscious thing he noted was the scent he had detected before.
After a few moments, a dark figure draped in a black rain poncho bent over his body, feeling the pulse on the opposite side of Don Felipe’s neck and grunting in disgust when his blood marked the hand anyway. The figure rose swiftly, looked around and listened intently. Moving out in the silent shadows, it removed the poncho and balled it up. It softly closed the garden gate and vanished into the night, leaving Don Felipe in his eternal sleep.