Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

    Carlos Hazday
  • Author
  • 3,308 Words
  • 2,014 Views
  • 112 Comments
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 - 34. CDMX • XXXIV

“You’re a handsome devil, Mr. Abelló.”

CJ, sitting on the floor playing with Liebe, glanced at his husband. “Why, thank you, Mr. Liston. What brought that on?”

Owen turned the tablet around.

“That’s one of the pictures Roge took for the Times article.” Rogelio Tanaka had photographed them while in Los Angeles for a feature in The Advocate about A Home for Warriors. He had done it again in Mexico for a profile of CJ as one of young, American foreign service officers for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

“It’s the cover. They picked a good one.” The article had been released online Thursday and the chosen image showed CJ in his favorite suit, arms crossed, standing next to an American Flag. “I like the title: ‘Next Gen Diplomats: America’s Future.’”

“Is it the same as the version Joe sent us?” Joe Huard, the reporter, had emailed them a draft of the article the previous week.

“Not sure. Haven’t read it. I was just looking at the pretty pictures. The one of us three looks nice too.”

A few days after returning from New York, their lives were back to a routine. Infanta had cooked, and after eating, the men spent time with their daughter until it was time for her to go to sleep.

Liebe caught a glimpse of the family portrait and immediately reached for the device. “Me!”

Owen yanked it away from her. “Yes, it’s you. Like your other father, your ego’s getting large. All you see’s your cute face. Did you even notice who’s in the picture with you?”

The girl pointed at the screen. “Ceej and Osh.”

“She knows, Oz. But I think she prefers looking at the cute girl instead of the old dudes with her.”

Liebe nodded her agreement.

 

”Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday…”

While CJ and Owen sang, Liebe grinned and clapped. Her birthday cake was a sprinkles-covered stack of pancakes with two blazing candles atop it.

“Blow out the candles, Munchkin” Owen stood behind her and helped while CJ took a picture.

It was not only the girl’s second birthday that Friday, but also Earth Day. Because the Nature Conservancy was co-sponsoring a couple of events, and Owen planned to take Liebe with him, they had given the nanny the day off. Skipping his morning run, CJ had instead cooked, using a metal ring to create six, perfectly round pancakes to stack as a cake.

Two forks and two small hands attacked the syrup-drenched chunks. After a couple of bites, CJ leaned in and kissed Liebe’s forehead. “Have fun with Ozzie today, Munchkin. I need to shower and head to the embassy.”

“You gonna finish eating breakfast before you leave?”

“Nah… I’ll grab an egg sandwich at the cafeteria. What time will you guys be home?”

“Before you for sure. The last thing’s at two, and I figure it’ll last about an hour. On the way home, I’ll call and confirm with Elpidio, and stop across the street to make sure everything’s ready for tomorrow.”

 

Liebe es la última.” Owen telling them Liebe would be last calmed the other kids jostling for position. Their agitation was understandable; each would be releasing a newborn into the garden.

El Mariposario de Chapultepec, one of the park’s zoological exhibits, raised and housed some twenty-five different butterfly species. With so many pupae, babies emerged daily, and visitors were given the opportunity to set them free.

“This was a great idea. Who thought it up?” Natalie Sinclair stood next to CJ, watching her son Nigel stay close to the birthday girl. He and Liebe had frequent play dates and had become close.

“Owen. He comes here at least once a week, calling it therapy. Which I can understand. It’s so peaceful.”

“Until our kids get all excited and disturb that peace.” Luca and Isabella Biaggi, the Amazon Mexico executive and his wife, had brought their two young sons. The boys stared as Trixie Newman slowly moved her arm out of the small tent the newborns were in. Two neon-blue butterflies clung to her arm.

“Mom! I got two.” Trixie, the daughter of CJ’s coworker, Simmone, was Liebe’s regular babysitter, and the oldest of the kids invited to the party.

“Your turn, Lupita.” Owen placed a hand on the back of the nanny’s daughter and gently guided her toward the attendant supervising the release. Although the girl was far from fluent, she had picked up quite a bit of English over the prior months. CJ and Owen provided encouragement by using the language with her.

Half-a-dozen children and nearly twice as many adults were all in high spirits as they left the park and crossed the street to CJ and Owen’s building. The sun was out and the temperature was comfortable, the open balcony doors allowed fresh air to circulate and provided easy access to the ashtray for the smokers in the group.

They had hired Elpidio once again, and he was waiting for them in the lobby. Snacks, cake, and soft drinksbeer and wine for the adultswere followed by Liebe opening presents. Soon after, guests drifted off. CJ noticed their server kept looking at his inexpensive, plastic wristwatch with a worried expression.

“Everything all right, Elpidio? You keep looking at your watch and you seem worried.”

“Sorry, Señor CJ. My mother wasn’t feeling well, I asked a neighbor to keep her company, but I’m not sure how much longer they’ll stay with her.”

“You should have said something. We could have found someone else to help us today.”

“Oh, no, Señor. You and your husband are very generous, and I need the money. I’m trying to save for my mother’s care.”

“Go home, Elpidio. If your mom’s not feeling well, you should be with her.”

“I’ll finish cleaning quickly and

“And nothing.” CJ opened a drawer and retrieved an envelope with Elpidio’s name on it. “Here’s your pay and tip. Go home. We’ll finish this.”

By the end of their conversation, everyone had left except for Lincoln. He helped clean, joined the family for sandwiches, and sat on the balcony with CJ, smoking a cigar, while Owen put Liebe to bed.

“Nice shoes, buddy.”

CJ raised and waved a foot to offer a better look. “Thanks. My one New York purchase. Spent more time shopping for Liebe than anything else.”

“Suede?”

The wingtip-inspired footwear had forest-green suede and light brown calfskin on top. “Yep. I almost bought a pair of great high tops, but I was scared Chipper would steal them when he comes visit.” Chipper’s sneaker collection continued to grow and new additions were always touted in social media posts.

“I’m looking forward to his concert. Thanks for the ticket.”

“Our pleasure but save the gratitude for Chipper. He offered us as many as we wanted, and we decided you and Calum should be there the same night we are. We’ll celebrate Ozzie’s birthday together.

“Too bad Austin’s gonna be out of town. Talk about taking leave at the wrong time.”

“You know? Ozzie and I really like the jarhead. I offered him a job with our company back in Washington if he wants to relocate there when he separates from service. I hope he takes us up on it.”

Once Lincoln was gone, CJ locked up and headed to bed; he crossed paths with Owen on his way to the kitchen for a glass of water. When he returned, he found CJ at the open closet door. “Oz, did you go in the safe today?”

“What did you say? I didn’t hear you.” Owen was already stripping to get in bed.

“Did you mess with the safe today?” It was an old-fashioned one, with a combination dial, built into the closet. “You know how I always leave it on zero?”

“Yep. Another of your endearing OCD traits.”

“I’m serious here. I opened it this morning to take cash out for Elpidio and the dial’s not where it usually is.”

“Maybe you forgot. Or maybe I moved it by accident when I dressed. Was it locked?”

“Yeah. And nothing seems to be missing.” CJ had been rummaging through the contents while talking to Owen.

“Then don’t worry about it. Come on, time for bed. I have a game tomorrow.”

 

“Very nice article, Mr. Abelló. Most informative.”

The comment momentarily distracted CJ, and he missed Owen’s kick after scoring a try. “Thank you, I think. You have me at a disadvantage, since you obviously know who I am, and I have no idea who you are.”

The New York Times Sunday Magazine feature had been published earlier in the day and the Asian gentleman standing next to him had apparently read it already. Early editions were available in Mexico City, as in many other places around the world, on the same day it was published in the United States. CJ recalled there was a reference to Owen’s Sunday rugby matches in the article, so finding them must not have been too difficult.

“Forgive me.” The man reached in a pocket, withdrew a card, and passed it to CJ while bowing. “Li Jinzhang at your service.”

Turning the card over in his hand, CJ found a set of Chinese characters on one side, and what he assumed was the same information in Spanish on the other one. The line reading Embajada de la República Popular China caught his attention.

He had been addressed in English, but CJ replied in Spanish to see if the man was fluent. “The Chinese embassy, eh? And what’s your position there, Mr. Jinzhang?”

Jinzhang chuckled. “The article gave me the impression you were a decisive individual more interested in getting to the point than doing the typical diplomatic dance. My assessment was correct.” Although the reply was initially in heavily accented Spanish, the man reverted to English for the last few words.

CJ assumed Jinzhang felt more comfortable with the Queen’s tongue. “And you artfully avoided answering my question.” CJ’s grinned, realizing he had once again been approached by a representative of an adversary nation. The Chinese had joined the Russians, and he was ready to play.

“I don’t have an official position yet. I’m a recent arrival in Mexico.” The man paused while staring at the match. “Your husband’s a decent player.”

“Yes, he is.” At the moment, Owen was under a pile of players, trying to roll the ball to a teammate. “So, no official position. What do you do with all your free time?”

The Chinese national chuckled again. “You’re relentless. No wonder the CIA likes you.”

That was the final clue CJ needed. Realizing the man was in all likelihood with the Ministry of State Security, CJ entirely ignored the game, and concentrated on the conversation. The MSS was China's intelligence, security, and secret police agency.

“I think you may have me confused with someone else.” The man had struck close, and CJ tried to remain calm and maintain a relaxed tone. There was no need for Jinzhang to realize how close to the truth he had guessed. Or maybe it was not a guess at all. “I’m a low-level consular officer. A simple paper shuffler.”

“We were surprised when the Russians made discrete inquiries about Yevgeny Domogarov last December. Surveillance cameras covering the Russian embassy’s entrance showed you and him embracing after a reception, and him cradling his arm immediately afterward. It was assumed you injured him.”

CJ kept quiet. He did not trust himself not to reveal something he should not if he replied. He did examine the man a little closer, trying to memorize his features. Tall, in decent shape, and probably ten years older, Jinzhang spoke English with a British accent. Maybe he hailed from Hong Kong?

“Your hasty departure for Washington immediately following your return from holiday raised eyebrows. By then you were on our radar. Surprisingly, reviewing security footage at airports in Mexico City, and the Washington area did not reveal you leaving this country or arriving in the U.S. Maybe you flew between private airfields? We assume you traveled in a private jet. Were you able to settle Domogarov in his new home?”

“I really have no idea what you’re talking about. My husband and I met Yevgeny at a social function when we arrived in Mexico and were his guests at a ballet performance and subsequent reception. You’re implying something else happened, but I’m afraid if it did, I’m in the dark. It must be above my pay grade.”

“Be that as it may, I’d like you to keep my card. Domogarov was as much of a thorn in the side to us, as he was to you. We’ll eventually decipher what really happened, but in the meantime, thank you on behalf of the Chinese government. If you ever need something, here in Mexico or wherever you end up in the future, call me. We owe you.”

 

“What is it with you and foreign nationals?” A grinning Jimmy Chen intercepted CJ on his way back from lunch.

CJ smirked. “Dude, I’m a freaking magnet. Not what I signed up for.”

First thing Monday morning, CJ had prepared a contact report and sent it to his upgraded contact list. At the request of the CIA and with the ambassador’s blessing, it excluded Northman, but Jake Cruz had been added.

“How’s your afternoon?”

“Same shit, different day. Unless something comes up, I’m closing files.” CJ had spent the morning interacting with visa hopefuls.

“Ooops, something just came up. Let’s turn around and head over to my office. I’ll call your boss and let him know you’re spending the next couple of hours with me.”

“Oh, great. When I get back he’ll probably jump all over me.”

Jimmy’s grin had an evil tinge. “Then let’s not give him the chance. I’ll tell him you’re busy the rest of the day. By now he should know better than to tangle with me.”

Behind a closed door in Jimmy’s office, he handed CJ a folder with a single photograph. “Is that your guy?”

“Yeah… And what do you mean my guy?”

“He came out to you as an intelligence officer didn’t he? We had no idea. That picture was taken about six months ago in Panama. He was part of a delegation dealing with issues affecting container ship transit through the canal. The Panamanians invited representatives from several Asian countries.”

“That’s all very nice, but he never admitted he was with MSS. Was that trip part of China’s effort to improve the delivery of manufactured goods? Maybe they’re planning on a private port? Haven’t they built a bunch of those in different spots?”

“What do you know about that?” Chen looked and sounded surprised.

“Come on, Jimmy. It’s not a secret, you know? I even watched part of a documentary on the big one they control in Greece. Their primary entry point into Europe these days.”

“Piraeus Port. And although he didn’t come right out and say he was intelligence, he might as well have. Anyway, after you submitted your report this morning, there’s a bunch of people at Langley digging for information on your friend. As far as we know, the name’s correct. He attended the London School of Economics, and has not appeared on any list of Chinese embassy employees anywhere in the world.”

CJ hoped Jimmy had called him in to share what information he had on Jinzhang and not to plan any sort of covert operation. As exhilarating as the confrontation with Domogarov had been, he had zero interest in becoming an intelligence officer. “So what now?”

A grinning Jimmy took the folder back and sat on the edge of his desk. “Want to infiltrate the Chinese embassy next?”

“Nope. Not only have I no desire to work for you guys, but Ozzie might castrate me and feed me my balls, if I agree to do anything like last time again. And I’m sorta fond of my balls.”

“Damn! And we were gonna offer you a bump in salary.”

The look CJ gave him was meant to remind the CIA man money was not a motivator for him. “Right. What do you want from me, Jimmy?”

“Nothing. But Spike wants to talk to you.” He punched a couple of buttons on his desk phone before dialing.

“Jake Cruz.”

“Afternoon, Mr. Cruz, this is Mr. Chen I have Mr. Abelló in my office, and the door’s closed.”

“Thanks, Jimmy. CJ, are you trying to complicate my life? Another one? How does it feel to be used like a two-bit streetwalker?”

“Good afternoon to you too. What the fuck are you talking about, Spike?”

“Jinzhang did his homework and used you to send us a message. Call it his coming-out statement.”

“You funny. Anyway, I can’t help it if you guys are asleep at the wheel. Somebody has to keep these fuckers in line, so I may as well do it myself.”

Jimmy’s cackle was matched by the one heard through the speaker. “Cocky bastard. Good job, buddy. I told you being a celebrity would affect your life.”

“I didn’t go looking for any of this, Spike. I do not want to work for you guys.”

“Relax, bro. We know you’re not responsible for who approaches you. We’re still unsure why Jinzhang revealed himself, but we’re digging.”

“Good. Find out who he is and make sure he stays away.”

“I don’t think we can control that. Unless you want us to arrange for a transfer out of Mexico?”

“Nope. We’d like to stay here a couple more years.”

“Then you’ll have to risk this type of encounter happening again. I’m warning you, if a North Korean contacts you next, all bets are off. We’re gonna draft you.”

“In your dreams, spy boy. I hope I don’t have to do anything but file another report if anyone else shows up at my door.”

“Yeah… But if I can make a suggestion, be friendly if anyone does. One day, it may come in handy to have a contact in the MSS or another intelligence service.”

Chen reentered the conversation at that point. “CJ thinks the Panama visit may have had something to do with the Chinese port building efforts.”

“How the hell you figure that?” Cruz sounded as surprised as Chen had.

“Like I told Jimmy, that stuff’s public knowledge, a documentary on their Greek operations, a couple of reports from think tanks about China using economics instead of brute force to achieve their goals, and general news. I get the feeling the Chinese are not as heavy-handed as the Russians. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I feel as if they’re willing to play the long game. Could be because China’s been around for millennia, and they’ve seen empires come and go.”

“Damn… Not sure what to tell you. But you better talk to me if you want to leave State. If not as an operative, we could use you as an analyst.”

 

“I don’t care what Jimmy or Spike want. You’re not getting involved in any more cloak and dagger stuff. Promise me, CJ.”

“Can’t do that, Oz. If it’s important enough, you know you’ll be there with me.”

“That’s questionable. I was shitting myself last time.”

“We were in no danger, and you know it was a little thrill. Anyway, you also know if we did anything like that again, it wouldn’t be so much for us. Maybe getting rid of one spy at a time won’t fix the world, but at least there’s one less person out there trying to sink the U.S. Whatever we agree to do, if we agree to ever do anything, it’ll be for Liebe. And her brother or sister.”

“Let’s just make sure they grow up with two parents, okay?”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 36
  • Love 59
  • Wow 2
  • Fingers Crossed 1

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.

Story Discussion Topic

I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments



39 minutes ago, FrankGC said:

Carlos, thank you for this surprise chapter! You really do give us great surprises!! Can't wait for the next chapter!

Only five more sleeps until Friday arrives.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 4
Link to comment

View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..