It was the first proper meal they'd eaten since disembarking the ship and the events which followed had been a whirlwind. When something starts to go wrong it has a habit of spinning out of control, which is exactly what happened. Clinton and Morgan finished up playing the game Eduardo wanted.
"Thanks, Javier," Clinton looked at their new friend across the table.
Javier grinned: "It's nothing."
His leg knocked purposely against Morgan's, who was sitting next to him. Morgan smiled and tentatively moved his hand under the table to poke Javier in the side. Javier jumped.
"Ouch!" He squeaked, laughing, and turned to grab Morgan.
"Can you two cut it out." Clinton was also smiling.
Javier hung back and focused on Clint.
"Seriously, we need to find a way out," Clinton was thinking that they had to leave, but how?
"I have a plan," Javier stared straight at Clinton. "I've been thinking about this a long time, because I'm done with the life here. It's no good. You two are like a sign."
"Like a sign? What do you mean?" Clinton frowned.
"Your coming here. It's a sign. An omen."
"Javier, are you serious? How is two lost American kids, with nothing, an omen?"
"Don't ask me to explain, but it is," Javier told him.
There was an argument which had erupted inside the restaurant, raised voices which threatened to explode, and this distracted their attention. Javier got up and went back to the bar, where his uncle was calming a customer who was complaining.
"Let's go," he told them as he came back outside.
The brothers stood up and together they headed off along the street, leaving the still arguing customer and Uncle Pablo behind, their loud voices lost amidst the noise of the traffic. Javier pulled Morgan off the street through a wrought iron gate into the relative peace and calm of what looked like public gardens. Clinton followed, and they walked further into the greenery and shade, finding an empty seat to sit on and continue their conversation.
"I know a guy who is going North with a truck to a place called Delicias. We can get a ride with him." Javier looked over at Clinton.
Morgan was sat between Javier and Clint, perched on the wooden bench, kicking the dirt with his feet and listening.
"And what do we do when we get to this place?" Clinton asked.
"He has work there."
"Yes. They are building and need workers."
"Where is this place?"
"I don't know exactly. North. Next to Colombia."
Clinton looked past Morgan at Javier.
"And he will just take us there. How far is it?"
"One day. Eighteen, twenty hours. We share the driving."
"That's it. Just share the driving?"
Clinton wasn't convinced, not at all.
"You know Señor Eduardo, right?"
"Kind of," Clint admitted.
"He runs everything, and it's not just clubs. He's very powerful, but not top dog."
"Who is then?"
"Hector Agraz?" Clinton repeated. It was the first time he had heard the name.
"Yeah. That's part of the plan."
"Man, I'm really lost now. You need to lay things out."
"Okay," Javier frowned, looking from Clinton to Morgan and back to Clinton. "It's like this. Señor Agraz is a Colonel in the army. He runs everything. Ships drugs out of Columbia to America. Part of that is to build an airfield and truck the drugs across the border, then fly them to America, but I'm not sure how. The thing is, if we get to Delicias, we can find work."
Clinton glanced at his brother, was he going to choose for them like always? Yeah, why not, he thought. Seeing as how Morgan's got eyes for Javier and the feeling seems mutual. Javier's got a way out, but he still hasn't exactly laid all his cards on the table. Clinton didn't doubt that. People spun webs like spiders, the trick was not to get stuck. Taking the trip to move on seemed the best play.
Clinton finally replied: "What about your uncle?"
"No problem. Don't be concerned about him."
"When do we go then?"
Javier stood up and leant over, bending to talk up close to both of them.
"You go back to the club. Can you find your way?"
"I'm going to sort things out."
They both watched as he stood, turned, and walked out of the gardens. The screech of a parrot broke the monotonous background noise from the traffic in the distance. They sat looking at each other until Morgan spoke.
"What now?" He asked his brother.
"I'm not sure. Guess we'll find out soon enough."
"I guess," Morgan repeated.
The club was more or less deserted when they got back. The boys went up onto the roof to wait for Javier. Morgan leant on the wall at the far end staring over the roof tops, listening to the sounds of the city that permeated up from the streets below like waves washing the shore. A sort of rhythmic sound that ebbed and flowed.
"Are we going with him?" He asked the question without turning, still staring over the city skyline.
"It's what you want?"
Clinton walked over to stand next to him. He looked straight down at the street below, following a figure that moved swiftly along the sidewalk of the otherwise deserted street.
"When has anything I want been a choice?"
Clinton silently thought about that comment. He realised in that instant his brother was right, he never had Morgan's choices in the equation. Clinton needed Morgan, but did Morgan feel the same? A shift was moving their world and he wasn't sure how that would work out. His right hand found the two dice deep in his pocket. He touched them and they knocked together with their ever familiar click of ivory against ivory. These were real die, no cheap synthetic copy!
"We're going now," a voice interrupted as Javier appeared at the top of the stairs. "Get your stuff and meet me downstairs."
The truck was parked up just outside the entrance, they both saw it as they squeezed past Javier and his uncle.
"Fuck!" Clinton let out an involuntary gasp. "That's a Chevy."
The beat up, dented and battered old beast was painted a deep green and proudly displayed most of the chrome lettering across the front. The guy in the driver's seat was blowing smoke rings out the open window and tapping his hand on the steering wheel in time to the beat from the radio. When Javier had finished with his uncle he stepped out to join them. The guy spoke to Javier before they exchanged places.
"Throw your stuff in the back," Javier gestured, and they duly deposited their bag in the back of the pick up. "Get in!"
Morgan came around the far side followed by Clinton. He slid onto the green leather upholstery that matched the colour of the exterior paintwork, and the three of them shared the bench seat, it was wide enough. Javier turned the ignition, put it in drive and pulled away.
"Change of plans," he smiled. "Just the three of us."
He'd answered the question before it was posed. Clinton looked straight ahead and said nothing, Morgan grinned.
"There's a map in the glove box."
Morgan reached over past Clinton and pulled it out.
"I marked Delicias. You got it?"
They swung right into the main road, hitting the city rush hour. Slow traffic, punctuated by horn blasts and an odour of diesel, accompanied them through the streets. Javier glanced at Morgan who was unfolding and re-folding the map.
"Well?" Javier asked him.
"Yeah I got it." Morgan confirmed.
"Then that makes you navigator."
Clinton said nothing, thinking about what happens when they get there. This just wasn't all pot luck and happy families. He was beginning to ask himself questions about Javier.
Once they negotiated their way through the heavy traffic, they soon joined the three lane highway that led them quickly away from the city and it's maze of streets and sprawling tower blocks. As the old truck lumbered on they rounded a long sweeping curve, finding themselves out in the countryside. Trees and a sudden rural environment marking the start of a long journey.
Nobody spoke much. Clinton watched the miles roll by looking out the window. Morgan simply relaxed sat in the middle of the other two. It was almost a trance like journey to the heavy rumbling sound of the old motor which was reminiscent of being back in the cabin on board the Bomdomo. They were ten hours into the journey when it seemed the motor was complaining too much.
"We need to pull off and find a garage," Javier slowed and took a left, direction Barinas.
"It'll never get us where we're supposed to be going," Clinton spoke for the first time in ages, looking past his brother at Javier.
"No hay problema," Javier told him, reverting to Spanish which he had a habit of doing when reality did in fact present a problem. It seemed the engine was growling out complaints and Javier was looking tense. Morgan spotted the sign, half hanging loose, garage automo, the rest was obscured.
"What you reckon?" He asked Javier, but Clint was included in the question.
Javier just nodded and swung a left up a narrow street that ended with an old hangar and a forecourt adorned with various broken cars and a tow truck.
"You got the cash to pay for this?" Clinton felt totally under the control of Javier, ever since they'd been dropped at his uncle's place by Miguel, Señor Phillippe’s driver. He didn't like the situation. He didn't like what had happened that first night with Gregoire in the club he'd taken them to. He didn't believe anything was what it appeared to be on the surface.
When Javier was off talking to some guy in the garage workshop Clinton turned to Morgan. "Kid, don't trust him," he told his brother.
"Why?" Morgan wanted to know.
Clint didn't reply.
"You always say the same thing. Right back when we were kids, remember? They're not our friends, you told me."
"We've got each other and that's all we got." Clinton frowned, feeling uncomfortable.
"Javier's okay. He got us out of the city."
"Gregoire got us off the ship and look how that turned out?" Clinton was irritated and it showed in his voice.
"You agreed his plan," Morgan snapped back.
His brother had no reply. Javier came back to interrupt things: "We will have to stay here. He can't fix it till tomorrow."
"So?" Clinton did not sound very pleased.
"We can stay here for tonight." Javier repeated.
They got their stuff, what little they had, and left the truck in the garage.
"There's a guest house. I've got the directions," Javier told them.
The small town was different to the city. The contrast of buildings and people, less busy, less noisy, and less polluted. They found the large old house easily.
Santiago and Valentina sat at the table with their young daughter. Clinton, Morgan, and Javier, completed the guest list. Breakfast was served by the wife of the man who ran the place, they were both getting on in years and only spoke Spanish. The old lady moved slowly, pouring coffee into the cup in front of Valentina and moving next to Santiago. She smiled a lot and talked to the little girl. Santiago touched her hand and took the coffee pot as he said something to her which neither Clinton nor Morgan understood. They only watched. It was Santiago who passed the coffee across the table. He smiled a friendly greeting as the elderly woman left them to return to the kitchen.
"Americano?" He asked looking at the boys.
Clinton nodded and sipped the hot coffee.
"What are you doing in Venezuela?"
It was an innocent enough question, but it took Clinton by surprise. It was as if he were being interrogated by a policeman. The question wasn't, are you on holiday, visiting, or something like that.
"Yeah, we're visiting," he told him.
The dining room resembled the elderly couple. Heavy carved wooden furniture imposed itself on the room. The light over the table and the lamp on the sideboard were brass interpretations of branches with their leaves surrounding the light bulbs. A delicate lace curtain adorned the lower half of the window and a picture of a bearded man walking, holding a branch and carrying a young child on his shoulder, took centre place on the opposite wall to the sideboard. Santiago was friendly and talkative and despite Clinton's apprehension, he did not seem to find it strange that two American boys were travelling through his country.
"Where are you heading for?" He asked Clinton.
"To Columbia," Clint replied. Then added: "We will probably fly home then."
"How do you like our country?" Valentina turned her attention from her daughter.
"It's not what I imagined," Clinton smiled.
"I hope that is good?"
"Yes," he nodded his confirmation.
Morgan glanced at Clinton who caught his expression. Well, what was he gonna say. Was it good? Certainly it wasn't what he imagined, but then he had only one idea. He only ever had one idea. To get out. But where to?
By the time they'd finished breakfast they'd discovered Santiago and Valentina were visiting family before he had to get back to work. They were on holiday. What work he had to get back to, he didn't say. Clinton had dealt with enough officials in his life that he was certain Santiago was another, but it didn't matter. The pressing concern was getting the truck fixed and that was about to become complicated.
"I have to get the part," the mechanic was telling Javier in Spanish.
None of this either Clinton or Morgan understood, they watched and waited. After he'd finished discussing the truck repairs Javier came over to join them. For Clinton it was an old garage, but he had to assume they knew what to do, and maybe the state of the place, the fact it was in a small town in the countryside, meant it wouldn't cost so much. He hoped Javier had the cash. When he explained to Clinton it would take three days because they needed a part, Clinton just sighed.
"What can we do?" Was his question to Javier.
"Nothing," was the answer he got back.
"And you got enough cash?" Clinton asked for the umpteenth time. It concerned him, relying entirely on a guy they hardly knew and who he personally didn't trust. It wasn't the same for Morgan. Perhaps because he had a thing for Javier. He didn't seem to care, or maybe he thought Clinton was being paranoid.
Javier simply looked at Clint, then turned to leave. "I already told him to get the truck fixed. What you think we gonna do? Walk?"