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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 - 5. CDMX • V

CJ disliked people using their phones for personal purposes while engaged with someone else. A receptionist or cashier doing so would often send him to another line, or if sufficiently exasperated, to another establishment. To avoid doing the same, most of the time he wore a smart-watch to work. Kept silenced, vibrations alerted him to incoming calls, messages, or emails. He could surreptitiously look, and in case of an emergency, take action. Otherwise, he would handle whatever matter came up when off the clock.

That was the case on Monday shortly before quitting time. “Damn!” Two emails, moments apart from each other, caught his attention.

They were replies to the one he and Owen had discussed the previous evening. He had sent a missive to Jeff Bezos’ assistant. The founder of Blue Horizon and Amazon, one of the richest men in the world, had befriended CJ years before. All thanks to a talk the younger man gave at the Amazon bookstore on Georgetown’s M Street while promoting his book, Bullies Beware.

They had interacted a few times since. CJ decided to approach Bezos’ assistant, even though he could have contacted the man directly, not thinking the entrepreneur would care to be personally involved in what CJ and Owen proposed. He had not wanted to impose too much.

Bezos had been busy in 2021. He had stepped down as head of the company he founded as an online bookstore but remained Amazon’s largest shareholder. He had also flown into space aboard New Shepard, the suborbital rocket built by Blue Horizon. Bezos had created the space exploration and tourism company at the turn of the century and was one of four individuals aboard the maiden flight. So, when CJ saw a reply from the assistant, and a message from Bezos himself, he was surprised.

“I’m home!” As expected, Liebe came running to greet him at the door. While CJ removed his shoes, she waited to be picked up. “Hey, Munchkin. Where’s Ozzie?”

“Work.”

Owen was indeed occupied, typing on his laptop while sitting at the dining table. “Hey. Let me finish this paragraph and I’ll be done. Sometimes I wonder if these people went to school. I spend as much time fixing typos as reviewing legal crap. How was it today?”

“Same stuff, different day.” It was an effort to use cleaner language around Liebe, CJ often slipped, but he kept trying. “Got a response to that email I sent yesterday.”

“Yeah?” Owen hit a couple of keys and closed the computer’s lid. “Did we get a name at Amazon Mexico?” In his email, CJ had briefly described their intent and asked for a name at the company’s Mexican headquarters. He explained Amazon might be interested in collaborating on the project.

“That and more.” CJ threw his briefcase and jacket atop the table, leaned in to kiss Owen, and took the seat next to him with Liebe on his lap. “Bezos sent me one himself! Well, his assistant probably did it, but it’s under his name.”

“What did he say?”

“Not much, but it was significant. Let me read it to you.”

Hi, CJ. Great to hear from you. Your proposal sounds great. I’ve spoken to someone at headquarters here, and we’re sending you the name and contact details for the person to approach in Mexico City. They’ll be informed we’re behind your project.

I’ll personally match what your family foundation’s investing. Let me know when and where to transfer the funds.

Best wishes,

Jeff

“Bloody hell! He’s giving us a hundred grand himself?”

A chuckle accompanied CJ’s dismissive hand gesture. “He can afford it. Hell, Amazon pays little enough in taxes. Let him and the company spend some bucks on a good cause. And this proves he’s a cheap bastard.”

“What?”

“How many people has he given a hundred million to? He reminds me of Oprah. You get a hundred million. And you get a hundred million. And you get

Owen cracked up. “Okay, okay, I get it. So, what’s our next step?”

“I’ll send a few emails again tonight. I’ll thank Bezos and his assistant, contact the guy at Amazon Mexico, and let embassy brass know what we’re doing. Even though this is a private matter, I want to keep them in the loop. We may end up getting media coverage. Amazon’s gonna want to brag about being good corporate citizens.”

After dinner, CJ and Owen dumped the contents of a canvas bag on the floor and played with their daughter. Liebe was only a year-and-a-half old, but they brought out the wooden cubes regularly, and she already knew several of the letters and numbers on them. They hoped to nurture her natural curiosity and awaken an interest in learning, so she would be ahead of the masses when ready for preschool. “It’s never too early to start,” Owen always said.

After putting her to bed, the men collaborated on composing replies to Bezos and his assistant, an introductory message to the Amazon Mexico executive, and an informative one to the embassy’s public affairs office and CJ’s supervisor.

 

The following morning, a reply from his boss greeted him. Northman asked that CJ stop by his office as soon as he arrived. The grunt was an unbidden reaction.

“You asked to see me, Mr. Northman?”

“Close the door and have a seat, Mr. Abelló.”

Here we go again, CJ thought.

“I’m not sure why you sought employment with the State Department. Seems to me you’re more interested in attracting publicity than doing your job. Let me remind you that you’re here to serve American interests and citizens. Not to socialize with your rich friends or to show off your wealth by using your family’s money on projects not having anything to do with our mission at the embassy.”

“Respectfully, sir, I copied you in my email to Public Affairs as a courtesy. I haven’t and won’t allow anything I do to interfere with my responsibilities.” CJ was a conscientious worker and tried hard to do a good job. He refused to allow his boss’s antipathy to interfere with his performance.

“Let me make this clear, you’re not to pursue whatever it is you want to do during working hours. Our resources” The door opening after a single knock interrupted him.

The men rose as a smiling Margaret Cox waved away offered handshakes and took the chair next to CJ’s. “I figured you’d be in here. I’m sure Stephen wanted to discuss the same matter I do. Your proposal for technology centers at Mexico City schools. Such matters are generally not part of a junior staffer’s portfolio.”

“That’s exactly what I was just telling him.” Northman smirked and leaned back in his chair.

Cox nodded. “I’m actually upset at you, CJ. Why didn’t you copy me on your email? I found out when Public Affairs called me. It seems Mr. Bezos sent them a message endorsing your proposal, confirming his personal match of your planned contribution, and promising Amazon Mexico’s full support.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d be interested. And since I’m doing this on my own time…” CJ managed to suppress a grin when he noticed Northman’s bewildered expression.

“As ambassador, my priority’s to advance the interests of the United States of America. As such, anything that helps improve our standing and our image in the host country’s important to me.” She graced the silent Northman with a maternal look. “I’m sure Stephen concurs this is a significant opportunity to do just that. Please copy me on any future communications. Also, if you’re going to deal with American businessmen and Mexican politicians and educators, doing so outside business hours won’t always work.”

If possible, Northman appeared more puzzled. The ambassador had, unknowingly, contradicted everything he had said to CJ.

“I want you to prioritize your project. It’s perfectly acceptable to do certain things during working hours. And if the embassy can provide support or resources, ask. I’ve already told Public Affairs to help in any way they can.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.” CJ decided gloating would not be appropriate. He was certain Northman was seething, and that was sufficient satisfaction at the moment.

Ambassador Cox stood. “Good job once again, CJ. Keep it up.”

Once she had left the office, CJ also stood. “Anything else, sir?” He tried not to sound too cocky.

“That will be all, Mr. Abelló.”

 

The sprawling U.S. embassy compound in Mexico City contained spaces CJ had yet to explore. One such room was a training facility for security personnel. He followed Austin MacKenzie’s directions until he reached it. CJ had brought sneakers, shorts, and a t-shirt with him and had already changed out of his suit in the restroom by his cubicle. The shoes he left by the entrance along with his briefcase and garment bag.

“Hey, CJ.” Sergeant MacKenzie peeled away from the two men he had been chatting with. “Here. Put this on. We don’t want you getting hurt.” The padded protection vest was adjustable and something CJ was familiar with.

“Thanks, man.”

“Ready to sweat? Let me introduce you to the other guys.”

After stretching and a few minutes of calisthenics to warm up, the four men had paired up and faced off. CJ and the three marines felt each other out. They tried to gauge fitness level, and once the military men had apparently determined CJ could keep up with them, the intensity rose.

“FUCK!” On his back, CJ stared at Austin and accepted the offered hand. The sergeant helped him stand after knocking him down. “Maybe I should have paid attention when my dad tried to teach me.”

“Bro, I’m getting the impression you could teach us too. Some of those moves were sick. You’re flexible as hell.”

“Whatever. I still ended up on my ass.”

The other two men had been watching and chuckled.

CJ had noticed the three Marines’ stance resembled that of a street brawler more than the purely martial arts practitioners CJ was accustomed to sparring with. But that was to be expected. They trained to defend themselves and obliterate their opponents. To them, it was not a friendly competition like what he was used to. Their goal was to incapacitate, maim, and terminate if necessary. “You guys do look a little stiff. I’d be happy to show you my full stretching routine.”

He was enjoying himself. Quite different from his usual get-close-but-do-not-connect training. The padded vests might prevent injuries, but he was certain his chest would be black and blue the next day. He did manage to get a few licks in but the muscled young men did not mind taking a hit.

He should not have been surprised, considering how often his fatherregardless of his MCMAP trainingended on the ground while sparring. Brett would quickly recover and resume their confrontation with renewed vigor. The marines did not know the meaning of quitting.

“That’s enough, guys. I’m beat.” CJ accepted the towel one of them tossed him and wiped sweat from his face and arms. “Next time, I want you to teach me how to use things like this towel to fight. Like Jason Bourne did in the movies using a rolled-up magazine.”

“You’re a hell of a lot more agile and flexible than we are, sir. And you don’t complain when we connect” The freckled one who had given CJ the towel shot his fellow marines a quick look. “I think we’d be interested in training with you on a regular basis.”

“Only if you promise not to call me sir again, Jarhead.” CJ's lopsided grin was matched by the redhead. “I’m twenty-three, and y’all are probably about the same. Call me CJ.”

“Yes, sir!” Austin’s salute was returned with a single finger. “So, Tuesdays work for you?”

“Yeah… My husband’s gonna be practicing with his rugby team Thursday nights, so Tuesdays are great for me.” CJ nodded at Austin. “You gonna join us Sunday again? Ozzie might get in the game, and Calum will be there.”

Austin blushed and stared at a spot on the ground. “I’d like that. Sunday rugby and back here next Tuesday.”

“You got it. Thanks for the workout, guys.” CJ waved before reclaiming the garment bag and backpack he had left by the door. “You have a good night, and I’ll see you around.”

 

“I’m home!” Because he had arrived later than usual, Owen was already feeding Liebe. In reality, he was supervising her making a mess. The spoon rested on the high chair’s tray forgotten, while her fingers were busy stuffing food in her mouth. “Something smells great.”

“Ceej!” Liebe raised her arms, dropping meat filaments over herself and the floor in the process.

“Hey, Munchkin.” He leaned in and kissed the top of her head. “Finish eating and then I’ll pick you up. Hi, Oz.” CJ repeated the kissing with his husband. “What did Infanta make?”

“Mexican ropa vieja. Different taste than the Cuban stuff, a little hotter, but pretty darn good.” The dish of stewed, shredded beef and vegetables, cooked in tomato sauce, was a staple of Latin kitchens in the Western Hemisphere. Each country added its distinctive touch by varying the spices used.

“Sounds good. I’m starving.” CJ held up the garment bag and backpack he carried. “Let me put this away, and shower. I’m stinky from my workout.” He kissed the top of Liebe’s head one more time. “Save me some, Munchkin. I’ll be back soon.”

By the time he returned, the girl was done eating and Owen was trying to clean up after her. “Look at this bloody mess. I can’t wait until she can put food in her mouth without half of it ending up splattered everywhere.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that, Oz.” CJ lifted the girl out of her chair and nuzzled her neck. “I kinda like her being covered in food. Easier to eat her when she tastes this good.” Lips covering his teeth, he nibbled down her arm.

“Nooo, Ceej! No eat me.” The girl squealed while squirming in his arms.

The dish was as tasty as Owen promised, and CJ had a second helping. “I’ll take the leftovers to work tomorrow.”

While Liebe watched from her chair, they put away what was left, cleaned the kitchen, and loaded the dishwasher. They would run it overnight.

 

“Bloody hell, he’s really going to hate you.” Owen had listened to CJ recount the morning’s interaction with his supervisor and the ambassador quietly, waiting until the end to comment. “Does Ambassador Cox even realize Northman doesn’t like you?”

“I don’t think so, Oz. That woman’s a force. She’s steamrolled over the idiot each time we’ve met. Once she starts talking, he clams up. Not sure if he’s surprised by her attitude, but I’m pretty sure he’s scared of her. The man’s a fucking bully. He picks on me but kisses superiors’ asses whenever they’re around.”

“At least you have the ambassador in your corner. And her support for the project. That will make it easier. Did you hear from the Amazon Mexico guy?”

“Nope. Nothing after the automated response telling us he was out of town. He’s supposed to be back in the office tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll get in touch then.”

“He better. I mean, if my employer’s founder and largest shareholder wanted me to do something, I’d jump on it.” Laying on his side, Owen placed a hand on CJ’s chest and ran his fingers through the blanket of hair. “How did it go with Austin?”

“Incredibly well.” CJ gasped when Owen’s hand slid to his abdomen. “He had two of his fellow Marines with him. Those fuckers are in great shape.”

“Yeah? How good of a shape?” Owen ran his fingers through CJ’s abdominal fur before plunging the hand even lower.

“We sparred for a while and those boys can take a hit. And not break a sweat.” CJ gasped again as his husband wrapped the traveling hand around him. “Watch it, Oz. You keep that up, it’s gonna want to play.”

“Ignore my hand.” Owen did not move it for a moment. “So, you gonna work out with them again?”

“Yeah, I think so. It was kinda fun at the end. I learned a few things from them, I gave them pointers based on my experience, and promised to teach them my stretching routine after they complimented me on my flexibility.”

“And exactly how did they realize how flexible you are?”

“Not this way, Oz.” A chuckle escaped CJ’s lips. “I did a couple of high kicks and…” The fondling made him stop talking for a moment. “You molesting me, Oz?”

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.

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?  
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