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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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 


“You did well. Much more focused than our first time.” Austin, on his back next to CJ, glanced sideways at his sparring partner.

“We keep this up, one of us may end up needing medical attention.” After landing on it several times, CJ knew his butt would be bruised and sore that night.

“Ha! Doubt that.” Marine Corps Sergeant Austin MacKenzie gulped air; the effort had winded him. “I started including some of the stretches you showed me. Regular PT doesn’t focus as much as you do on flexibility.”

They had spent the last ninety minutes facing off in the bowels of the embassy. The other two marines training with them had exited earlier, rushing to get ready and report for duty.

CJ was surprised by how much he enjoyed being both teacher and student. The three military men knew how to follow instructions and their conditioning made it easier for them to absorb whatever the budding sensei threw their way. In turn, he was learning not all fights had to be choreographed ballets. Marines were intent on destroying their adversary by any means necessary, and they did not take it easy on him.

Sitting, CJ wiped his sweaty face one more time. “Hey, can you make sure you’re not working the first Sunday in November?”

“Yeah, I guess. I’ll look at the schedule. If I’m on duty, I may be able to swap with someone else. As long as my boss approves. Why? What’s up?”

“We’re having a few people over for a wine tasting. There should be enough of our family’s stuff by then so everyone can get a couple of glasses.” Although he was willing to share their allotment of Liston wines, CJ hoped they would have enough left to tide them over until the next shipment. “About a dozen people. We’re inviting Lincoln and Calum in case you’re interested.” The smirk earned him a grin.

“You guys playing matchmakers? Anyone else I know going?”

“Simmone and her daughter have already accepted. And we’re inviting Yevgeny Domogarov too.”

Austin’s face clouded with concern. He knew who Domogarov was. “The Russian spy?”

“Yeah… Owen promised him a chance to taste our wines when we first met him. I figured we would forget about it, but the ambassador insisted we have him over. Something about keeping our friends close and our enemies closer.”

“You remember I mentioned I had some dirt on him?”

“I do. We never had that conversation.”

“It doesn’t directly involve me, but someone who left the embassy before you arrived. Gay guy, we’d become friendly after I arrived. Entirely platonic. He was into some kinky stuff I wasn’t interested in. Well, we went out to a bar one Saturday and bumped into Domogorov. I thought the face looked familiar, probably from a security briefing, but I wasn’t sure.” Austin shook his head and sighed.

“Anyway, the Russian buys us a round and starts flirting. He buys again, we talked for a bit, and I excused myself to use the restroom. When I returned to the bar, my friend and Domogarov were gone.”

Surprised and confused, CJ frowned. “They didn’t even say goodbye?”

“Nope. And that’s not the worst of it. The next day, my supervisor called me in and started asking questions about the previous night.”

“Oh shit! Did your friend get in trouble?”

“You could say that since he returned to the U.S. a couple of days later. He might still be with the State Department, so I’ll call him… John. Once he got out of the hospital, I got to talk to him.”

“He ended up in the hospital?” CJ was shocked.

“Yep. Seems Domogarov took him home, and when John mentioned he liked being tied up during sex, the Russian was very accommodating. Domogarov fucked him repeatedly and ended up fisting him. He was so rough, when John finally left the following morning, he realized his ass was bleeding. He took himself to the emergency room and had to have his hole sewn back up.

“He told me Domogarov kept asking questions about Embassy procedures while using him. He claimed all he could do was moan when the ball gag was out, but we’ll never know for sure. Based on the questions he remembered, the embassy changed certain procedures. They also made security briefings for new arrivals more rigorous.”

“I wondered why they were so insistent I memorize certain names and faces.” CJ reconsidered inviting Domogarov even if it went against the ambassador’s wishes. Liebe’s safety was his priority, and he feared putting her at risk. He would have to discuss the matter with Owen. “Now I’m pissed I don’t have my gun with me.”

“You own a handgun?” Austin seemed surprised. “What kind?”

“A Sig. My husband’s never been happy about it, but I won that fight. I’ve been going to shooting ranges with my dad since I was a kid. The marine.”

Austin chuckled. “Figures it’d be a fellow jarhead. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, CJ. You guys won’t be alone with him. And Lincoln has a permit to carry. Ask him to bring his just in case.”


The scheduled, Wednesday morning conference call with Gloria Lujambo and Luca Biaggi went better than CJ had expected. Several e-mails had been traded between the three after he pitched the proposal, but it was the first time Gloria and Luca spoke directly. They agreed to meet early the next day at Lupe’s school.

Before lunchtime, CJ sent an email to Public Affairs, copying his supervisor and the ambassador. He brought them up to date and let them know about his meeting the following day. Since he would probably be out of the office most of the following morning, CJ decided to eat at his desk that day. He wanted to get ahead on his workload.

Stephen Northman did not acknowledge his diligence when he stopped by. “Mr. Abelló, I realize I can’t stop you from prancing all over town chasing whatever it is you’re after. No matter how misguided her decision may be, the ambassador supports your little project, and I will follow her instructions.”

Prancing? CJ was unsure if that was meant in a homophobic way, but he kept his mouth shut.

“However, I’ll appreciate it if in the future you provide more lead time when you decide to take time off.”

CJ did not get the opportunity to explain he had found out about the meeting minutes before sending his message. Northman turned and left without another word.


“Ciao, Luca.” CJ paid the taxi driver and stepped onto the sidewalk. Luca Biaggi, accompanied by a bulky man with dark hair and a short beard, stood in front of Lupe Romero’s school.

The cheerful Amazon Mexico executive shook his hand. “Ciao, CJ. Tutto bene?”

“That means everything okay? Right?”

Molto bene! Let me introduce you to my colleague, Luis Paz.”

“Hello, Luis. A pleasure to meet you. CJ Abelló.” Bulging biceps were a testament to the man’s love of curls; they stretched his black polo’s sleeves to the point of tearing. Although in great shape, the shirt failed to disguise incipient love handles. CJ thought for someone in his mid-thirties or so, Luis looked great.

El placer es mío, Señor Abelló.”

Por favor, call me CJ”

“Luis manages interior space planning for all our properties in the Mexico City area, CJ. He’ll supervise design and construction at your school, at the same time creating a template we can follow in subsequent ones.”

“I’m excited about this project.” Luis momentarily looked at the ground. “I’m so impressed that a foreigner would care so much about the education of Mexican children. Thank you. On my behalf, and on behalf of those kids, for pushing this project through.”

“You’re welcome, but it’s not all my doing, Luis. My husband started the conversation, my parents agreed to fund a school, and Jeff and Amazon are taking it a step further.”

“CJ’s friends with Mr. Bezos, Luis. The big guy will fund one school himself and the company will underwrite the others.” Luca glanced at his wristwatch. “What do you think? Should we head inside or should we wait for Secretary Lujambo to arrive?”

At that moment, a large American-made car with dark-tinted windows slowed down and came to a stop in front of them. Education Secretary Gloria Lujambo stepped out from the back seat, smiling. “Gentlemen, it’s good to see you. Thank you for agreeing to meet on such short notice.” She kissed CJ on both cheeks and shook hands with Luca and Luis after introductions were made.

“Before we go inside…” She hesitated for a moment, apparently trying to decide how to say whatever was on her mind. “You may as well know that the school’s principal, Miguel Fernandez, is… CJ, como se dice alguien con miedo a la tecnologia?”

“Someone afraid of technology would be a technophobe.” CJ was surprised the translation came to him so quickly. Maybe his Spanish was already better after a few weeks in Mexico. If not better, at least he was more comfortable using it on an ongoing basis.

“Ah, yes, of course. Sometimes words escape me. Anyway, Miguel’s not thrilled his school’s the one selected as a demonstration project. However, he’s older and set in his way, so I’ve not been overly harsh with him. He’s close to retirement. I did tell him he had no choice in the matter. If he as much as looks at you wrong at any point, I’ll deal with him.”

Three nodding heads seemed to satisfy her. She took a step towards the entrance. “Let’s go bring this school into the twenty-first century.”


“We’re not happy about losing the teachers’ meeting room.” Miguel Fernandez, the hidebound school principal, ran a hand through his white hair and shook his head. “That’s been a place for them to work quietly in since before I took over the school.”

Jaime Navarro, the science and physical education teacher chosen to run the technology center upon completion, once again attempted to soothe his boss. “It’ll be fine Señor Fernandez. I’ve already talked to a few staff members, and none complained once I explained why we were taking over the space.”

The recalcitrant man was not convinced, he noisily blew out air. Once they had toured the facilities, Secretary Lujambo insisted they all sit and discuss the project. Fernandez had brought up one objection after the other.

“My school’s going to be a mess during construction. I’ll have to reassign janitorial staff to deal with the dirt and trash for months!”

“Actually, Señor Fernandez, I do not believe it will be as bad as you think. Once we have final plans and approvals, I think we can have the center open and running within thirty days of starting.” Luis Paz had taken photographs and copious notes during the tour. CJ had stuck close to him and heard the man mumble about equipment placement while measuring distances between electrical outlets. “And our crew will clear all debris.”

“And what are we supposed to do about personnel? Losing Jaime to this project means we’ll have to hire someone to replace him. I don’t think our budget can handle it.”

“That won’t be a problem either, sir.” Luca, like CJ and Secretary Lujambo, had not said much. They had allowed Luis and Jaime to monopolize the conversation. “The amount contributed by Mr. Abelló’s family will cover Mr. Navarro’s salary for a while. Amazon Mexico will underwrite his pay afterward to ensure continuity.” Their proposed commitment was for a total of five years.

CJ had been shocked to discover the median salary of a Mexico City elementary school teacher was the equivalent of about six-thousand American dollars a year. He and Owen were paying Infanta a hell of a lot more than that. He realized the hundred grand his family had committed to the project would cover remodeling, furnishings, and more.

“The monthly expenses will be a burden. Our electricity costs, supplies, and new charges for internet connection will be a drain on our resources.”

“I’ll take care of that, Miguel. The ministry has discretionary funds I control. Some of it will be redirected to supplement your budget for the committed time.” Secretary Lujambo was fully behind the project, and she was not going to allow an intractable principal to derail the effort.

“I don’t understand why you chose our school. Couldn’t you do this someplace else? Maybe somewhere with a newer and better building? A school not as crowded as ours?”

“I’m sorry, Señor Fernandez. That would be my fault. The initial proposal to Secretary Lujambo specified your school.” Considering how opposed the man was, CJ tried to skirt Lupe Romero being the reason for the choice. He feared possible retribution against the girl. “I met one of your students, they appeared fascinated by tablets and computers, and admitted they knew nothing about them.”

CJ had noticed the man’s wedding band and a photo on his desk of a group of children too young to be anything but grandchildren. “Although my daughter’s very young, I know I’d do anything to make her life better. She’ll grow up in a world full of technological marvels, and I plan to ensure she knows how to use them properly.

“My family’s goal is not to interfere with your school, but to give some of your students a fighting chance to improve their lives.” CJ decided to play the sympathy card. “After all, isn’t that what all parents want for their children? What all grandparents want for their grandchildren? Isn’t that what you’d want for yours?

“I promise you that, as long as you’re this school’s principal, you can call me if you have a problem. I’ll do my best to help you solve it.”

CJ’s comments at last drew a nod from the principal. Personalizing the appeal had worked. Once the meeting was over, Miguel Fernandez shook CJ’s hand and thanked him for caring about his students and children in general.

Back at the office, CJ again ate at his desk and drafted a memorandum summarizing the decisions reached and the potential timetable. The only recipient to acknowledge it in person was Northman. Public Affairs and the ambassador replied with short, approving, and encouraging messages. Northman made a point of stopping by CJ’s desk and complaining about how long it took for a simple meeting.


“So you think the teacher’s family?” Owen spoke softly, not wanting to wake Liebe. She had been bothered by an ear infection the past couple of days, and they had allowed her to crawl in bed with them. Cuddling with either one always helped calm her and fall asleep faster.

“I think so. He was careful when looking at me; always kept his eyes fixed on my face. However, I caught him checking out the Amazon guy more than once. I think Luis was oblivious to it.”

“Bloody hell! So, what his name, Jaime?”

“That’s the teacher.”

“So Jaime ignores you and cruises Luis? If that architect’s that hot, I may want to meet him.”

“Asshole!” The bed barely moved when CJ gently slapped Owen’s head. “You may get your chance.”

“When and where?” Owen’s eagerness had CJ softly chuckling. Since Liebe was asleep, he also tried to keep the volume down so as not to wake her.

“There’s a heck of a lot of paperwork ahead you’re gonna have to review. You’re our in-house counsel. We’ll have to sign a contract promising to pay what we said we would. And a bunch of other ones between Amazon and the Education Ministry. Those I hope we don’t need to get involved with.”

“If the foundation or any individual board member even gets mentioned, I want to see them.”

“I’ll pass that along to Luca. Anyway, once all that’s taken care of, the initial estimate’s about a month for the technology center to be up and running.”

“The paperwork’s probably not as cumbersome as you think. Still, let’s say it takes a month, then another month for construction. We’re looking at the beginning of December.”

“Probably not cumbersome compared to the crap you have to deal with at the Nature Conservancy. Anyway, that was the thought, end of November beginning of December. Lujambo made it clear she wants a big to-do for the opening. You and I will definitely have to attend. And she wants Liebe and the other foundation board members there too.”

“Forget Ritch. Can you see him asking his commander for a couple of days off to attend some function in Mexico City?”

CJ’s smirk was probably not visible. “Yeah, right. I don’t see that happening either. But the dads could make it.”

“Aren’t they spending Thanksgiving in Malibu?”

“That’s what they said. Some woman, an old friend of Grandma Davenport, insisted they spend the holiday with her family.”

Brett and César had reacquired the old Davenport family home earlier in the year and spent time refurbishing it. In the process, Brett had reconnected with the old family friend, clashed with a museum’s director, and reclaimed part of the family art collection previously exhibited by the institution. CJ and Owen had benefited from the events. A Warhol Mao now hung in their house back in Washington. The cost of their insurance rider for artwork and jewelry had skyrocketed in the process.

“If the Amazon people time it properly, we could have the dads fly in straight from Los Angeles. It would probably be a weekday event, and they could spend a couple of days with us. Liebe would love to see them in person.”

“Sounds like a plan.” CJ leaned over their daughter and pecked Owen. “I’m ready to call it a day.”

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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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