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    Carlos Hazday
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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 - 37. CDMX • Epilogue

“LIEBE! CJ!” Owen’s arrival and shouts coincided with Lincoln groaning and rolling onto his back.

“Oshieee…” Liebe’s cry was accompanied by sobs, tears streaking down her face, and snot streaming from her nose. She crawled a couple of inches before Owen scooped her into his arms.

“Are you okay, Munchkin? Are you hurt anywhere?”

The girl wailed louder when she noticed her other father laying in a pool of blood underneath her kidnapper. “Ceej! He’s hurt! Help him, Oshie.”

“Somebody get this fucker off me!” CJ was alive. His voice sounded strained but the fact he was cussing was an indication he was well. “Goddamn, my face hurts.” He raised a blood-covered hand to where Elpidio had punched him, leaving crimson streaks all over himself.

Liebe scrunched her face, displaying her fear and apparent dislike for blood. “Nooo! Get up, Ceej.”

Owen didn’t wait for anyone’s assistance. Kicking and pulling with one hand, he pushed Elpidio aside, freeing CJ. “Are you okay? I heard the gunshots and ran as fast as I could.”

“I think I’m fine. Is he dead? The gun went off while we struggled for it…”

“There’s no pulse. He’s gone.” The new voice made CJ turn his head.

The nearly empty park had quickly filled with people, including countless uniformed officers. “Where the fuck did all you people come from?” He at least recognized who had determined Elpidio was not alive: Diego Sol. CJ tried to stand.

“Don’t move, Mr. Abelló. There’s an ambulance on the way.” He avoided looking directly at CJ. “Sorry for not telling you in advance, but we staged officers to take him down after the exchange.”

“Yeah? Well, fuck you too, asshole. I asked for no cops and you lied to me. You told me there wouldn’t be any. And one of your people screwed up. It nearly cost my daughter, my friend, and me our lives. Spare me any further fucking help.” CJ took deep breaths trying to calm down; the gun was on the ground, within reach, and the thought of shooting the cop for being a dick crossed his mind.

Rising to his knees, he stared at Lincoln while hugging Liebe and Owen. Both wound up smeared with blood. “How ya doin’, Linc? I think those vests you insisted we wear saved your life. Bro, I owe you.”

We owe you, Linc. Thank you for protecting Liebe.” Owen moved to the FBI agent’s side and offered him a hand to get up. “How many bullets hit you?”

“No idea. We’ll check once the vest’s off.” Lincoln rose, bent over at the waist, and placed his hands on his knees. “Damn thing saved me, but I’m gonna hurt for a few days. And I’m woozy. I hit my head on the ground real hard.”

“Sit on the bench.” CJ offered their new brother his assistance. “At least we won’t see black and blue bruises because you’re so damn dark!”

CJ was feeling better already. The fact his daughter clung to him and would not loosen her grip helped. She was safe, and that had been the evening’s goal. Anything else he would deal with in due course.

“Asshole!”

Laughing must have been painful; Lincoln grimaced. Surprisingly, Liebe did not object to the colorful language.

“Stay still; help’s on the way.” CJ returned his attention to the Mexican cop. “Sol, you created this mess so you deal with it. I’m taking my husband and daughter to the airport. Make sure Agent Erickson’s looked after. Tell the doctor or paramedic he hit his head when he dove to cover Liebe.” He did not care he was ordering a high-ranking Mexican police officer around.

“We should have them check you and your daughter too. And I’d like to take down information for my report. I can’t allow you to leave not knowing if you’re hurt.”

“You? You’re gonna stop me? Go fuck yourself. Now you’re worried about our well-being? We’re leaving. And if you or any of your men try to stop us, I won’t be held responsible for what may happen.” CJ’s anger flashed quickly, and he realized he wouldn’t be entirely in control until Owen and Liebe were safe in the United States.

The policeman took a step back and remained silent. CJ was certain after witnessing what had happened, Sol knew the American diplomat was not to be trifled with. Not many people ran at someone discharging a firearm.

 

“Damn, the three of you look like crap.” Dr. Chatri Mookjai’s comment made CJ and Owen swirl around. Their physician stood on the jet’s door, waiting for them.

“What the hell, Chatri? What are you doing here?” Seeing their friend came as a surprise, but CJ was thrilled. However, he was not ready for the next shock when Brett and César poked their heads through the opening.

“I decided to disobey your orders. We told your buddy one plane was enough because we were coming down here no matter what anyone said.” Brett reached to take Liebe from CJ’s arms, but the girl refused to unclench her hands from her father’s hoodie. “Everyone okay?”

“We are, Cap. The blood’s not from any of us.” Owen hugged his in-laws trying not to smear their clothing. César wasn’t having it. He squeezed his son-in-law while Brett did the same with CJ and Liebe.

Obviously, seeing their sons and granddaughter ambulatory, combined with Owen’s comment, was enough for the men to relax. Brett even made CJ grin. “You can court-martial me later for disobeying your orders. Let’s get you all in the damn plane.”

Chatri shrugged and was at last able to answer CJ’s question. “I had nothing better to do today, so when your fathers called the office looking to hire a medic just in case… Let’s just say I had to fight my wife off; she immediately volunteered.” His wife, Helen, was a registered nurse. “Cap’s right. Come inside, and I’ll treat those scrapes on you and Liebe.”

The rough asphalt had skinned the girl’s knees and elbows. CJ also had a burn from grabbing the gun’s hot muzzle; he had wrapped his ever-present bandana around it.  Elpidio’s punches to his face would leave him bruised, but he thought he could take care of himself once home. “No time, bud. I want this plane in the air five minutes ago. I’m staying in Mexico for a few days.” He tried not to think of all the details he would have to deal with as he tossed the backpack he had been carrying to Brett. “Hang on to that. It has ten grand in cash inside. I’ll head back to the apartment now, okay?”

“Nooo! You come, Ceej.” Maybe it was the shock of being kidnapped and subsequently seeing her unmoving father covered in blood, but Liebe had clung to him from the moment they piled into the SUV for the ride to the airport.

CJ placed the girl in a seat and squatted in front of her. “I need to take care of Infanta, the apartment, and my job.” He momentarily stared at Owen and smirked. “I’m pretty sure I screamed at my boss and quit when I saw your message this morning.”

Owen kneeled on the aisle next to them. “It’ll be okay, Munchkin. Grandpa Cap and Grandpa A are with us, and we’ll all be together at the hotel in Miami.”

“And you’ll also get to see Aba, Abuela, and Abuelo.” CJ’s grandparents were the reason he had insisted she and Owen head to South Florida. The girl called her great-grandparents the same thing her father did.

“NO! I want you.” She reached out and grasped CJ’s hoodie again.

He pried her hand off and stood. “This ain’t gonna work. Oz, you may have to put up with her fussing and crying until she wears herself out. Help him out, Dads.”

“Go. We’ll get her to calm down. I’ll call you once we land.” The quick kiss would have to last them until CJ rejoined them. It would take several days.

 

Before leaving for the park to meet Elpidio, CJ and Owen had asked Felicia to remain in the apartment with Infanta who refused to leave until she was certain Liebe was fine. They had called the women from the car on the way to the airport to put them at ease. Upon returning, he instructed Sam, who he had hired to chauffeur him around until he left Mexico, to drive the nanny home.

Thinking he would need something to help him sleep, CJ asked Felicia if she had anything she could give him. Once she had provided him with a couple of pills and left him alone, he sat on the balcony to have a drink and catch his breath. Staring at Bosque de Chapultepec, he realized he would miss the city and the park. It had become their backyard. Liebe had fallen in love with the zoo, in particular the giant panda exhibit. Owen played rugby nearly every Sunday in the athletic fields and returned to the butterfly garden frequently.

For CJ, the Museo Nacional de Antropología had become a favorite. He could get lost in the Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec exhibits.  The Stone of the Sun and Pacal’s jade funerary mask, in particular, could make him lose track of time while staring at them.

The random thoughts stopped around the same time he drained the last of his Scotch. Awake but drowsy, it took him a moment to recall where he was when he opened his eyes. He had dozed off. Stumbling to the bedroom, he decided there was no need for a sleep aid; the emotional upheaval had left him exhausted, the adrenaline rush had receded, and the alcohol had exacerbated the condition.

 

CJ visited with Lincoln daily. On Saturday, he showed up at the medical center the FBI agent was taken to after the shootout and kept overnight for observation. Unsure how hospital food was in Mexico, he showed up with coffee, juice, and breakfast sandwiches for both of them.

At lunchtime, CJ took Infanta, her husband, and Lupe to eat, video called Liebe from the restaurant so they would be satisfied she was doing well, and apologized for the sudden end of her employment. He handed her letters of recommendation in English and Spanish and a severance check for six months' wages.

Returning to the hospital, he and Lincoln spoke with Diego Sol. Even without invoking diplomatic immunity, he would not to be charged with a crime. Sol had approved their plan, and CJ killing Elpidio was deemed an act of self-defense.

 

He was back at the hospital, across the park’s southern edge, the next day. Lincoln was being released, and CJ wanted to escort him home. Once there, he became a fixture at the FBI agent’s place until the man was cleared to return to the office.

“Are you going to the embassy tomorrow?” Lincoln handed CJ a cold mandarin Jarrito, sat, and sipped from his own bottle.

“Oh, yeah. I guess you haven’t caught up with the news this morning. The media blackout’s crumbling.” He had scoured the Saturday newspapers and watched the news, but nothing about the Friday night events had been mentioned. The following day things were different. “I need to talk to Carter and see what the embassy and State want me to say when I get outed.” One newspaper had carried a story in their Sunday edition about shots being heard Friday night at Bosque de Chapultepec. The police had declined to comment on an open investigation.

Lincoln chuckled. “Why would that matter? Didn’t you quit?”

“Jerk!” It felt good to laugh. “I wonder what Northman did after I told him to fuck off.”

“You may be screening your calls, but I’ve talked to a few people at the embassy. Not much else to do in the hospital. Sources tell me he filed a complaint against you. I’m sure he’s gonna feel like shit when he finds out what happened.”

“Sources?” CJ grinned. “Ain’t gonna worry about it, Linc. If for no other reason than out of respect, I do have to speak with the ambassador. Plus, I don’t want to burn bridges. I do have to discuss any future plans with Ozzie, but he knows I wanted to go back to school at some point. We were thinking five years at State and then going to classes part-time or taking a leave of absence. Now…”

“Yeah, now you have an opportunity to accelerate your plans.”

“We’ll see. What about you? What happens now?”

“Back to D.C. as soon as I’m cleared to travel. Eventually, another assignment. Probably in the States.” Because he hit his head on the asphalt when he dove to cover Liebe, Lincoln had been placed in a concussion protocol. He expected to be cleared in the next day or two.

“Then at least one good thing came out of this mess. We’ll all be in D.C. soon. Need a place to stay when you get in?” Lincoln had leased his suburban Washington townhouse when posted to Mexico.

“Isn’t Brad living at your house? It might get a bit crowded.”

“Dude, we have another three bedrooms. And I need to talk to Owen about it, but I think it’s time we remodeled the apartment inside the carriage house. Plenty of room for you for as long as you want.”

 

On Monday, even though he had told Northman he was quitting, CJ showed up at the embassy. Instead of his desk, he headed to the ambassador’s office; she had sent a message asking him to stop by and see her as soon as he could.

“How are Owen and Liebe?” Margaret Cox did not bother with preliminaries.

“Physically, they’re fine. My fathers had our doctor fly down with them, and he treated her scrapes en route to Miami. Mentally, Owen and I are trying to digest what happened and figure out what we could have done to prevent this.”

“Nothing as far as I can tell. The man was someone you knew and had no reason to suspect. Building security was familiar with him based on what I’ve heard, so they wouldn’t have guessed his motive when he showed up. What about Liebe? How is she dealing with such a traumatic experience?”

“Lots of separation anxiety. We end up video chatting a couple of times a day. She continually asks when I’ll be joining them. Owen said she’s mentioned seeing me on the ground, not moving, with blood all over the place. She said she thought I was dead.”

“I’m surprised she even knows about death.”

“We’ve discussed it. Probably in more detail than appropriate for her age, but she seemed to be okay with how we explained it.”

“The three of you should probably talk to a therapist, but I’ll assume your support system will also help.”

“It better. She’s with one of her fathers, two grandfathers, and three great-grandparents right now. They’ll keep her occupied and distracted until she sees me in person and realizes I’m fine.”

“Okay, the State Department will facilitate counseling if you want to avail yourself of their assistance. Let’s talk about you and this silly notion Stephen Northman has that you resigned.”

“Ummm, I sort of did. When Owen texted about Liebe missing, I may have overreacted when Mr. Northman ordered me to sit. Adrenaline definitely had something to do with it, but I used foul language, and told him I was quitting.”

“I hope you realize it’s not that easy.” The woman actually grinned at him. “I’ll assume Owen and Liebe are not returning?”

“No, ma’am. And I won’t be staying in Mexico. Once I take care of a few outstanding matters, I’ll be joining the family in Florida. Hopefully by week’s end.”

“Yeah… I figured I was losing you. Damn shame, CJ. You have so much potential. However, I understand. Starting today, you’re on leave. State expects you to report to Foggy Bottom at the beginning of next month.”

“What about me resigning?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about…” The grin returned larger than before.

 

CJ detailed the events at the park for Felicia while sorting through possessions at the apartment. Since it had been rented furnished, there was nothing major he had to worry about. He grouped items depending on whether he would be taking them with him, shipping them to Washington, or leaving them behind. He had promised Infanta and her husband first claim to whatever was not going to the United States.

When CJ asked Felicia if there was any way they could find out about Elpidio’s mother, her illness, and the treatment her son wanted money for, she agreed to have a junior reporter make inquiries. The result had been disheartening. The woman had stage-four liver cancer and the proposed cure was nothing but a scam. Before leaving the country and after discussing it with Owen, CJ arranged to have her moved to a facility she could receive palliative care. CJ paid for it.

 

Carter Ludwig dropped by his apartment that evening. “What do you think?” He had provided CJ with a draft of the press release the State Department proposed to issue concerning Liebe’s kidnapping and rescue.

“I guess there’s no chance of removing our names?”

“You nuts? It’ll all come out sooner or later anyway. I believe it’s better we be proactive. We’re already gonna take crap for not releasing the information right after the rescue.”

“Yeah, well, I figured it was worth a shot. I do want you to remove the detail about flying to Miami. The phone calls and messages have already started and the last thing I want’s a reporter, or anyone else, tracking us down and showing up at the hotel.”

“That can be done. We can replace the Miami mention with one about the family being back in the United States. I’ll add a line I’m sure State will accept about you guys requesting privacy so you can process the events.”

“That works.”

“People calling you?”

“Mostly family and the inner circle of friends so far. The doctor who flew down here’s one of those. When my dads asked for help, the three physicians, the head nurse, and their practice’s office manager found out. All of them are good friends, but word quickly spread among the rest of our crowd. My peeps won’t talk to anyone without asking my permission but enough journalists have my number.”

“It’s good to have people you can trust like that. Unfortunately, we can’t control what others say. Just as with Domogarov’s defection, rumors are spreading.”

“Go for it. Let me give you an alternate phone number to contact me. But you can’t share it with anyone, okay?”

“Getting rid of the old one?”

“Nope, but Ozzie and I want to turn them off until the initial tsunami of attention recedes. My dads already got us a new one to share until we return to Washington.”

“I think I know what the answer will be, and I don’t want you to think I’m trying to coerce you, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask.” Carter’s professional persona replaced the jovial buddy from moments before. “It would be nice if we could put you on camera for the public to see. Any chance of getting you into a press conference before you leave?”

“Nope.” CJ hoped the smile accompanying his one-word response showed Carter the question didn’t bother him. “But I promise as soon as I’m in Miami, I’ll share a picture with the hubby and kid on social media. I’ll mention we’re all fine. And anyway, I’m sort of doing one of those press things on the flight.”

Carter was visibly confused. “Say what?”

“Since I already spoke with a local reporter, I decided I had to give a couple of them in the U.S. a heads up. Once I’m airborne, after I talk to Ozzie and Liebe, I’m doing a conference call with Trip Houston of the Post, and Joe Huard at the Times. They can alternate questions and write whatever they want. I’ll be circumspect about the CIA being involved, and I’ll refer to Lincoln as an old friend instead of an FBI agent.”

“Savvy, Mr. Abelló. Very savvy, indeed. I'm impressed. You give two friends an early start on the story, with direct quotes, and you don't show either  favoritism. That’s one way to cultivate contacts with the two top American dailies.”

CJ knew exactly what he was doing; even though friendship factored into his decision, he had taken into account who those friends worked for. He would have contacted someone at The Wall Street Journal too, but he did not have a personal relationship with anyone there. “Whenever possible, I’ve given Trip early access. Ozzie and I trust him. Joe’s in the picture thanks to you. I liked how he went about the whole interview thing, and we enjoyed the final product. It praised me without fawning. We think we’d like to stay in touch with him.”

“He’s good. Sounds like you’re auditioning for a press secretary. Running for office?”

“Hell, no. I need to discuss all this with Ozzie, and I’ll wait until I hit Foggy Bottom and find out what they have in mind, but I want to go back to school. Let me know when you decide to leave State. I might want to hire you.”

“I’ll keep the offer in mind. Back to school? Really?”

“Yeah… Dealing with all these politicians and diplomats has convinced me I need better business knowledge. Something in international finance.”

 

The meeting with Jimmy Chen took place the following day in his office, and it included Jacob Cruz via a secure telephone connection. Both praised CJ for remaining cool under difficult circumstances. Cruz insisted CJ get in touch as soon as he returned to Washington and not to make a snap decision concerning his future. He wanted CJ to meet a couple of individuals at the Agency, and listen to whatever they proposed.

Over the next couple of days, CJ supervised the moving company he had hired to ship personal items to Washington. He called or met in person with Calum, Natalie and Jah, Ugo, Sir Kent and Dorothy, Luca and Isabella, and a few others they’d become friendly with. Austin and the other marines he had befriended all asked him to keep in touch and promised to reach out if they found themselves near the nation’s capital. Simmone cried when he hugged her goodbye. She and Trixie would be in the D.C. area over the summer, and they would spend time together then. It was not how CJ envisioned his time in Mexico City coming to an end, but he left satisfied with what he had accomplished and the new friends he and Owen had made.

 

“Bye, Munchkin. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.” CJ had called as soon as the use of electronic devices was allowed aboard the plane. “She’s smiling, Ceej.” Owen had been unable to say more than hello; the girl had grabbed the phone as soon as she heard her other father’s voice.

“How’s she doing?”

“Better. Of course, that may have something to do with her grandparents and great-grandparents spoiling her rotten. My mum’s been calling daily to check on us. They’ve changed their flights already. We’ll have them at Everhope in a few weeks.”

“That’s cool. Did you call Cypress House?” CJ had suggested getting away from everyone for a few days before returning to Washington. The Key West bed and breakfast they had stayed in before felt secluded enough.

“Yeah. We’ve got the top floor as long as we want it for.”

“Cool. Hey, why don’t you call Carlos?”

“Hazday? In Fort Lauderdale?”

“Yeah… See if he can put us in touch with someone, so we can score a little weed. Even though it sounds as if I still have a job with State, I really don’t care. After abstaining for so fucking long, I’m ready to get stoned.”

Owen’s rich baritone laughter reverberated in CJ’s ear. “Harley’s gonna be happy when he sees us again.”

“I’m looking forward to hanging and getting high with him as soon as we’re home. It’s been too long.” CJ nodded when the flight attendant offered him another Champagne miniature. “Oz, I can’t wait to see you and the munchkin. Being alone the past couple of days, rattling around the apartment, confirmed what I’ve known for a while. I love you two more than anything in the world. You’re my everything, and I’m nothing without you.”

 

 

The End

 

The end of CDMX, but not the end of the series. CJ, Owen, and Liebe will return.

In the meantime, if you've enjoyed the story, I'd appreciate you taking a few minutes and reacting to the chapter and story. Do so by leaving a comment, recommending the story, and if you feel inclined, writing a review. I don't beg for those often, but I'm doing so now. :P

It's been a pleasure interacting with all of you over the past few months.

Carlos
February 11, 2022

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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