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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 26. CDMX • XXVI

“This shit’s good.” Chipper raised the tumbler to his lips and again tasted the firey liquid.

“I know, right? Ozzie and I took advantage of the duty-free shop at the airport. We bought fancy perfumes for the grandmothers and three tequila bottles. One of them’s for you. We’re giving another one to my grandfather.” CJ grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. “The three of us should be able to kill this one before the weekend’s over.”

“Typical rich brat, evading taxes whenever possible.”

“Fuck you!” CJ chuckled. “And for the record, we’re not evading taxes, we’re avoiding them. There’s a difference since the former’s illegal and the latter isn’t.”

“You and your damn, fancy words.”

Chipper’s concert at the University of Miami’s Convocation Center the next day was the reason for the trip to Miami. Staying nearby, the musician had been waiting for them when they checked in at The Biltmore. The same magnificent, Mediterranean Revival hotel CJ’s fathers favored when in South Florida.

Liebe had woken briefly during the elevator ride, so they had only turned on a lamp in the suite’s living room. Chipper had turned on an easy-listening playlist and waited in the penumbral sitting area, while Owen took the girl and a backpack to one room, and CJ went to change. He had gone directly from the office to the airport and had flown in his suit.

“I need a drink.” Owen had shed his shoes, traded pants for shorts, ditched the blazer, but kept the polo shirt on. “Chipper, you wouldn’t believe that kid. I’m hoping she’s tired out and stays down until morning. She was good on the flight, but she didn’t sleep a wink. Instead, she stared at the monitor on the back of the seat in front, mesmerized by it, and constantly talked back. Of course, she was the center of attention. Flight attendants and passengers walking by all had to stop and say a few words.”

“What else would you expect? She has to make a splash no matter where she’s at. She takes after her father.”

“I hate you, Cristiano.” CJ rarely used Chipper’s real first name, doing so usually meant retaliation.

“So, César Marcos, my sister emailed me an article from The New York Times about a Russian diplomat in Mexico gone missing. An unnamed source in the intelligence community speculated a young diplomat seen at the Bolshoi Ballet with the man in question may have had something to do with said Russian’s disappearance. Tell me that wasn’t you. Did you help the guy defect? Or did you kill him and hide the body?”

“That the one from last Saturday?” Owen held his palm out in CJ’s direction when Chipper nodded. “You owe me twenty.”

CJ took pity on a confused looking Chipper. “He bet me our close friends would figure out it was me they were talking about.”

“Dude! You shared pics at the Bolshoi in your private account. We’ve all been talking about it behind your back. Everyone’s scared our phones are bugged now that you’re a spy.”

CJ and Owen cracked up, and it took a couple of minutes for them to calm down. They confirmed being at the performance and for the first time mentioned the listening devices to someone. Spike had been the intelligence expert quoted and there would be a follow-up article on Saturday’s Washington Post confirming a defection in double-speak.

“Mate, not for general consumption, okay? We still haven’t figured out what those people at Langley are playing at. One minute they want complete secrecy, next one they’re leaking stuff.”

“Sounds like typical spy shit.”

“Hey, at least we shared those shots in private instead of posting half-naked ones like you do. We see one more picture of you in your Versace undies we’re gonna barf.”

“Don’t be a hater, bro. And just so you know, I get a couple of grand from Versace each time I post one. Which I won’t be doing for much longer.”

“Bloody hell, that’s a lot of money. What happened? Did they fire you?” Owen dropped a couple of fresh ice cubes in his glass and reached for the tequila. “Don’t you love the sound of ice cubes against crystal?”

“Crap, you’re turning into as much of a snob as CJ. How the hell do you know it’s crystal and not plain glass?”

CJ replied for his husband. “You can tell… Plus, the concierge mentioned it last time we stayed here. So did Versace dump you?”

“No! What I meant’s that my staff will take care of posting on public accounts from now on. I’ll review a bunch of pictures so we have inventory in case nothing interesting happens. This weekend’s all about the concert and the upcoming tour. I want you guys in at least one of them. Okay?”

CJ nodded while Owen shrugged.

“Anyway, the reason so many Versace pictures get shared’s because, although the contract’s for once a week, I like to sneak in extra ones. Like I’ll post a shirtless picture with their waistband logo visible above my jeans. Makes them happy since they don’t have to pay for those.”

“And it keeps you in Versace.” CJ figured there was a reason behind Chipper’s willingness to go above and beyond his contractual obligation.

“You bet your sweet ass. We’re meeting with them in California next week. They want to provide all my clothing for the tour.”

“Are you going for it?” CJ did not think his friend was that willing to become a walking advertisement. “And since when do you have a staff?”

“Hell no! But if they agree to become one of the tour’s sponsors and throw a lot of money my way, I’ll wear something from their line at every show.”

“You’re just a high-priced whore!”

“CJ!” Owen did not look happy.

“What? He’s selling his body to a fancy Italian fashion house. And don’t tell me I’m not being PC. This is amongst the three of us.”

Chipper grinned. “And whoever bugged your suite.”

“Oh, give it up already. I’m not working for the CIA, and I’m not a spy.”

“Yet. Oh, and I’ve had a staff for a while. It’s been mostly law firm employees, but on the advice of counsel, I’ve hired a personal assistant and a PR person. You’ll meet the assistant this weekend but the PR woman’s in L.A.”

“Ethan’s advice?” Ethan Feldman, who had graduated from law school with Owen, was an attorney in New York City. All his fellow Squad members relied on him for legal advice.

“Yeah, him and Miles Abramonov in their L.A. office. You have any idea how complicated it is to put together any type of tour? I’m so glad my minor was in Music Business.”

Owen’s lawyerly nature interrupted at that point. “I hope you didn’t get into the actual negotiations. From what I’ve heard, the attorneys used by music producers are sharks.”

“What? Like the rest of you aren’t?” CJ’s sudden jump off the couch saved him from the head slap. “I need to pee.”

When he returned, the conversation had moved on to something else. “What’d I miss?”

“Chipper’s now my BBFF” While Owen spoke, Chipper rolled his eyes.

“I’m his best BFF because I told the attorneys what I wanted and used my education to make sure that’s what the contracts specified. And maybe the fact I demanded the tour be carbon neutral influenced his newly discovered appreciation for my many talents.”

“Bloody hell! I may have to leave the room. Between your ego and CJ’s, there’s barely enough room for me in here.”

 

CJ’s grandparents, Sebastián and Rosario Abelló, joined them for breakfast on Saturday morning then took Liebe with them. They planned to collect the other grandmother, Olga Santos, and enjoy a day at the zoo. Liebe would spend the night at Olga’s apartment, and they would all gather on Sunday again.

With nothing planned until late afternoon, CJ and Owen spent time at the hotel’s pool. Their last vacation had been in Colorado with temperatures hovering near the freezing point and snow. A Saturday spent on a lounger in Florida’s January warmth, being able to order a cocktail refill by simply raising a hand, was all they were interested in. They had lunch on the terrace and a nap in their room before heading out in the early evening.

 

“HEY! You can’t be back here. SECURITY! SECURITY!”

CJ and Owen looked behind at the hallway they had just walked through. It was empty, so CJ assumed the shouting was because of them. He pulled on Owen’s arm and whispered. “I thought you told me Looney Tunes got it wrong with Taz. Didn’t you say Tasmanian devils are shy?”

Owen cracked up.

Reaching into his pocket, CJ retrieved the all-access pass Chipper had given them the previous evening. He did not have to raise it for the man to see since he was a couple of inches under five feet.

It was promptly snatched from his hand. “Where’d you get this? Did you steal it or is it a fake?” Taz retrieved his phone and tapped at it. “What’s your name? I personally approved all of these before they were handed out.”

“I’m César.” CJ squeezed Owen’s hand to keep him quiet. If the man berating them was going to be rude, CJ would have some fun with him.

A finger ran up and down the phone’s screen a couple of times. “SECURITY! I don’t have anyone with that name on my list. You’re trespassing.” When a woman in uniform approached them, he turned his anger on her. “What the hell took you so long? Are you deaf or something? And what kind of job are you people doing out there. These two are not allowed to be back here. Escort them outside and

CJ knew how the faceoff would end and decided to strike. “Slow your roll, Napoleon. I don’t know who died and named you emperor, but you’re going to regret this in a few minutes. Who the fuck are you anyway?”

“CJ! You can’t call him Napoleon!”

“Why not? He’s short and sounds like an asshole dictator.” CJ grinned while his husband looked unhappy.

Owen shook his head while the stranger stared in disbelief. Apparently, he was unaccustomed to people making fun of his height to his face. The bulging eyes and slack jaw were pretty good indicators.

“You’re making fun of my height? Who the fuck you think you are?” He turned to the guard. “Shoot him!”

It was her turn to stare wide-eyed.

“Down, short stack, down. She ain’t gonna shoot me. You still haven’t said who the fuck you are and why you think you can tell me what to do.”

“I’m Peter Pure. I’m Mr. Pereira’s PA and

“Fucking, Chipper! I bet you he didn’t tell us his new personal assistant was an ogre to fuck with us. The dick knew I’d react to anyone trying to boss me around, and he wanted to get a reaction.” CJ knew his friends and knew himself. “I’ll get him back when he comes visit. Boy am I gonna get him.”

“When did he mention my name?” The tone was softer, the incessant movement came to a stop, and the facial expression alternated between surprise and fear.

“Last night. We were having drinks in our hotel room when he handed us the passes and mentioned we would meet his new assistant today.” CJ smiled at the man who had no idea how much shit Chipper was to get.

“Your name’s not César!” The squeaked-out comment sounded like a last-ditch effort.

“Really? What would you prefer to see? My driver’s license, my passport, or my State Department ID?”

“State Department? You’re his friend CJ!” He turned to Owen. “And you’re his husband. Owen. Although the boss called you Oshie or something like that.”

“His name’s Owen, our friends call him Ozzie, and our daughter calls him Oshie at times. You can refer to him as Mr. Liston, tater tot.”

“CJ! Enough with the stupid names.”

“Why? I’ve got a gazillion of them, so he better get used to them.”

Owen shoved CJ away. Hard. “Please ignore my husband, Peter. He has issues with authority. I’m Owen Liston. You can call me Owen.”

Peter wouldn’t stop shaking his head while grasping Owen’s hand. “Thanks. I… I fucked this one up, didn’t I? His first concert, and I manage to piss off half the VIPs.”

“You didn’t fuck anything up. You didn’t know us, and you’re trying to protect Chipper. You’re doing your job.” Owen gripped the man’s shoulder and gave it a gentle shake. “I’m not pissed.”

“I am.”

“Shut up, CJ. Apologize to Peter for all those names you called him.”

“Me? Apologize? I’m not sure I know how to. And anyway, he and his cohorts tied up Gulliver. I haven’t forgiven them for that.”

“Ceeejaaay…”

“Not happening, Oz. He talked to me as if I was a gate crasher. Why couldn’t he ask who we were before he started shouting at us and calling security? He didn’t have to be so short with us.”

Owen threw his hands in the air. “I give up. You’re being a total dick. Peter, where’s Chipper?” When the guy threw a thumb behind him, Owen started walking in the indicated direction. “I think you should throw CJ out. Or have the guard shoot him.”

“OZZIE!”

 

“OYE MIAMI!” Some ten thousand throats roared in response. The concert, a benefit for the Frost School of Music Scholarship Fund, sold out shortly after tickets became available. The upper bowl was mostly University of Miami students admitted free of charge with their college ID, while seats on the lower sections, what was usually the playing court, and the suites had been snatched by university supporters and music fans alike.

While the crowd still cheered, the band struck up the opening bars of “Hurricane Season.” The initial reaction, most likely due to the artist strutting on stage wearing a Miami Hurricanes football jersey, was surpassed by the response to the song Chipper had written in honor of the city and school. It had been part of his debut album, Jetsetter.

Sitting on the third row, flanked on one side by the university’s president and on the other by the music school’s dean, CJ and Owen struck a discordant note. While those surrounding them had paid a lot of money for their seats and most of the men had dressed in slacks and blazers, the younger couple wore jeans and sleeveless muscle shirts. Possibly a reason for Peter not recognizing them as VIPs. They had jackets in the car for the after party.

Once the opening number was completed, Chipper stripped off the football jersey to reveal a tie-dye tank top in orange, green and white, the university’s colors. The shrieking accompanying the move came mostly from the cheap seats and sounded very female. The performer had already been labeled as the sexiest young, male artist in the country. His next two numbers were also from his initial release.

“Thank you!” A stagehand placed a stool center stage and brought Chipper a bottle of water and his acoustic guitar. “Thank you for that wonderful reception and thank you for being here tonight. Your generosity this evening will help ensure deserving students can attend the Frost School without having to mortgage their future with student loans.”

Owen leaned closer to CJ. “I know our tickets are free, but we should make a contribution to the scholarship fund in his honor.”

“Sounds good to me. How much you think? A grand?”

“It’s Chipper; let’s make it twenty-five hundred.” Owen smiled when CJ nodded.

“I’d like to thank Estefan Enterprises for underwriting tonight’s show. In case you haven’t heard, I’m going back out on the road in a couple of months. By myself this time. Gloria and Emilio’s company will be producing the tour’s Latin American segment.” Chipper saluted in the direction of one of the suites where the famous Cuban-American couple stood waving, illuminated by a spotlight.

“Also with us tonight are the University of Miami’s president and the Frost School’s dean and their spouses.” Chipper grinned while bowing to the two couples. “Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the presence of my best friends. CJ and Owen are currently living in Mexico City and flew in this weekend to see me. Guys, thank you! I wrote this one for you. It’s called “Loving Down Under” and it’ll be in my next album.”

CJ and Owen held hands through the entire song and were the first ones on their feet after. When Chipper segued into the next number, the university’s president, Dr. Julio Frenk, whispered in CJ’s ear. “We have to go mingle with donors upstairs. Will you two be at the party?”

“Yes, sir. We’re driving Chipper there.”

“Good. I’d like to talk to you both some more. We’ll see you later.” The Mexican-born physician had at one point been his country’s Minister of Health and became excited when he found out CJ was posted to the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.

For nearly three hours, Chipper performed a mixture of his own music and popular covers. “Carolina,” written for his niece, had most of the audience sitting quietly, listening to the sweet lullaby. When the stage went dark after he finished the song, the arena remained illuminated thanks to the phones being held up. It may have been a tad louder than when he first came on stage.

Chipper had changed shirts a couple of times, particularly after numbers involving a lot of dancing. When he returned to the stage for a third encore, he had once again donned the football jersey. “Thank you! Thank you all. I’m not sure about you, but I’m beat. I need a cocktail, some food, and about ten hours’ sleep. I have one more for you, though. I’m pretty certain this is the one that earned me the Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, since it’s also up for record of the year. Love you all, and thank you for coming out tonight. Here’s “The District.”

Once Chipper and his band left the stage, and the auditorium lights were turned on, the crowd began exiting the complex. Before CJ and Owen stood, Peter Pure came to find them. CJ thought the man had recovered from their initial interaction; he smiled and sounded calm. “Follow me, guys. His dressing room’s packed, but he wanted to make sure you weren’t stopped on the way.” Had Peter known CJ better, he would have correctly identified the malevolent grin as a precursor for a zinger.

“Thanks, Tiny Tim. Lead the way.”

Owen’s head slap was loud enough it nearly drowned out Peter’s “Fuck you, Sasquatch!”

Outside the dressing room, people overflowed into the hallway. Peter stopped and turned around. “I gotta get in there and start clearing out the crowd. You can follow me, or you can wait out here until there’s room.”

“We’ll wait.” CJ leaned against the wall and Owen joined him. “Thanks.”

Maybe it was because CJ did not insult him, but Peter grinned before diving into the mob.

 

“So, you’ve been friends with Chipper a long time, eh?”

The good-looking man surprised CJ. He was getting tired of people he had never met knowing so much about him. He replied with a question of his own. “And you are?”

“Oh, sorry. Julian Torres. I’m with Estefan Enterprises, and I’m the one in charge of the tour.”

“CJ Abelló” CJ extended a hand to the man.

“Oh, I know who you are. Unlike Peter, who was too frazzled when your buddy showed us pictures of you on his phone, I paid attention. Originally from Miami like me. You and Chipper went to high school together, and you work for the State Department at the Mexico City embassy.” Julian turned to Owen. “And you’re Owen Liston. An environmental attorney trying to make sure there’s a world for future generations.”

CJ shook his head. “I was just thinking I’m tired of complete strangers knowing so much about me. I hate it. So Peter saw pictures of us and still gave us crap?”

Julian chuckled. “Give him a break. This is his first job with a musician; he worked for a sports agent before our budding star hired him. And as far as strangers recognizing you, I think you better get used to it. According to Chipper, you’re going to run for President one day soon.”

“Ha! I won’t be old enough for that for like ten years. I think it’s too early for me to start working on polls to assess name recognition.”

“That ship sailed a long time ago.” Owen always appeared delighted seeing his husband uncomfortable in public; he claimed it was a rare occasion to be enjoyed. “You can add a few more thousand to the number of people who’ve heard your name, Ceej. And don’t forget you have a university president who wants to talk to you later.”

“You two are coming to the party, right?” Because Chipper was leaving for Los Angeles after the weekend, and would embark on his tour from California, the Estefans were hosting a late supper in his honor.

“We are. Chipper’s supposedly riding with us.” Owen took the lead in the conversation.

“Yeah, I heard. I also heard he wants to stay with you when we’re in Mexico City. The rest of us will be at the Intercontinental Presidente. How far is that from your place?”

“Two blocks.”

“Oh, okay. That’s great. So you live near the Auditorio Nacional.”

“Yep. We’ll probably walk to the concert. It’s ten minutes away on foot.”

“Perfect. Listen if you want Gloria and Emilio’s address for your GPS…”

“Thanks, Julian. But I think we can find the place. We’ve been there before.”

The man looked surprised. “Really? When?”

“A couple of years ago? We were at JLo’s fiftieth birthday party.”

“Damn! I wasn’t even invited to that one. That was a tough ticket. Who do you guys know?”

“Jennifer. CJ met her while he was in high school, and they’ve been friends since. I think we were invited because she felt bad about missing our wedding.”

Julian grinned at CJ. “I think your husband’s right, my friend. The anonymity ship left port already.”

CJ returned the grin. “You just met me, and you’re giving me shit already?”

 

“I can’t believe you hired an attack Chihuahua as an assistant.” CJ, driving the rental, ducked in case Owen tried to slap his head.

Chipper laughed. “You’ve been having fun with him, haven’t you? He mentioned screwing up and your relentless abuse.”

“Yeah, well, I just gave him a little shit.”

“Give it a break already. Chipper, how does it feel to be on stage for nearly three hours instead of the thirty or so minutes you did as a warm-up for somebody else?” The previous year, Chipper had been the opening act for Maroon 5 during the USA portion of their world tour. Owen and CJ had been at the performance in Washington.

“It’s exhausting. As soon as the rush dissipates, I crash.”

“Adrenaline?” CJ was not entirely sure what his friend meant.

“You have any idea what it’s like to have a few thousand people screaming for you? The feeling’s out of this world. Oh, wait. I forgot who I’m talking to. Of course you know what it’s like. You’re CJ.”

“Asshole.”

 

Supper on Star Island, the private enclave where the Estefans lived, had been delightful. Sunday brunch at The Biltmore with the grandparents was reminiscent of multiple such occasions in the past. And the afternoon spent at the pool with Liebe had been a great way to cap an outstanding weekend.

“Are you gonna get tickets for Northman?” Owen might have been expecting the response he received since he smiled when asking. CJ looked shocked.

“You’re trying to wind me up, ain’t you?” Julian had asked them to provide Peter a list of people they thought should be at the concert as Chipper’s guests. For either business or professional reasons. “Not gonna happen.”

“We have the ambassador, Simmone and Trixie, Lincoln, Calum, and Austin. Anybody else from your side?” Owen ticked the names off with his fingers.

“Nope. And you’re sure you don’t need any from yours?” CJ had been surprised when Owen mentioned there was nobody at The Nature Conservancy he felt compelled to invite.

“Nah, mate. That’s fine. I was surprised Julian insisted Chipper sit for a long interview with Felicia.”

“I think he understands our relationship with Chipper better than Oompa-Loompa. He realizes we have his artist’s best interests at heart.”

Owen shook his head. “That’s it. As soon as we get home, you’re reading your own book. I think you’ve forgotten the lessons in Bullies Beware. And you will stop with the name-calling. Give Peter a break. He was doing his job even if he’s a little excitable.”

“A little? Ha!” Seeing the look on Owen’s face, CJ raised his hands in surrender. “Fine! I’ll stop making fun of him. But if he goes all Taz on me again, I’m gonna trash him.”

“Bloody hell, why do I put up with you?”

“’Cause you love me almost as much as I love you.”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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