RENO, NEVADA 1996
No circular driveways, no gangsters, no crooked executivesm - - just her, frozen in time, in the sun shine, a statue in the high desert planes.
Juanita Diamente Ortega is stunning, she is beautiful, she us crafty, she is sweet, she is naive, she is bait..She is his sister, she is his ex-girlfiend. She is idealistic, she is protective of her daddy. She is a worm on a hook for Joven to bite.
Joven knows this, he tells her as much, not exactly but passive agressively.
“You should go,” he said turning from her ,walking toward the elevator. “Get outta here please I’m begging you sweetheart, go, leave now.”
But she just stands there staring at him almost wanting to go but not wanting to leave without him.
“Why did you do this to us Ronaldo?”
He lets the elevator door close slowly like he thinks a gangster should, staring at his shoes, palm over palm, cool focused.
She knows better. Must have been the hot wind on her almond-brown neck that tells her he loves her.
She says, “Me too, Me too.” only in her mind, she puts on her designer shades and escorts her father into the main lobby.
On the elevator Joven bounces up and down on the balls of his feet, his head throbbing in ancticpation, his little gun stuck to his sweaty ankle.
Things are too far gone now.
Now he’s even more angry then before. Ortega and Batista know that they can always put him at a disadvantage by bringing her into the equation. How could he stand by and just let Batista pull the strings and make him and everyone he loves dance like a fool. Joven thought about his father. He doesn’t hate Orlando Ortega, surrogate and non-biological papa, not even now. Ortega is still a mentor and deep in the recesses of his hardened heart, he definitely still can’t shake his adoration for the lovely Juanita. Now it’s truly over, he convinces himself. At this juncture he believes he can’t live with himself if anything happens to the people he loves. And dammit something is going to happen. Nothing he can do about it.
By the time he gets off the elevator and walks down the hall, his hate for Batista intensifies. He suffocates with blind, raw hatred. He reaches for the double doors and fling them open. He laughs to himself that he took the elevator one flight up and it seemed like seventy stories on the way up. He laughs at all the stupid clueless men before him, some of whom will die simply because they associated themselves with crooked Batista. Some won’t know why they’re being killed. He stands there for a while, like a field general staring onto a smokey
battlefield. Then in a flash, all of the talking ceases in the Cigar-smoke filled room. He cautiously walks in. Every occupant is staring at him. Some look with contempt, while others are indifferent.
It’s clear though that they have a morbid respect for the young man for standing up to Batista. Joven cases the joint, whirls around subtly to see two muscle-bound guards who looked to be of Latin descent. Colombians? They’re certainly not regular security. He’s walking into a hit in a boardroom at a quarterly executive board meeting of the board of directors of a publicly-traded company in the United States of America. How ridiculous is his plan? How ludicrous is there’s? How dumb is the world for everyone to be in it and act as they do? As he surveys the room, he sees something, or the lack thereof that makes his blood boil.
First instinct just start blasting and go out in a hail of bullets on the six o’clock news or in the 24-hour madness that is cable news. He’d be in all the papers on all the TVs, they’d make a movie about him, He’d be an American-made self-made immortal gangster. Reality hit. He starts to walk out and just run. Yeah right, maybe in his mind. Maybe even grab Juanita if she is still downstairs take her away. Yeah right again. It’s either the police or the paneling. That’s what they say in the neighborhood about the thugs. You either get the law or your family gets to admire the fake facade, the pinstripe wood paneling adorning the walls of a funeral home that smelled like ammonia, rubbing alchohol and grief. It’s confirmed now — a set up. Play it cool like he always does.
“Gentlemen, where’s your fearless leader, surely he wouldn’t miss such a festive occasion.”
He walks authoritatively toward his seat and the head of the table where Batista should be were he present. To him, it’s their way of saying, “this is your last meeting enjoy it.” Behind the chair is a large plate glass window through which he looks out and sees a catering truck coming through the gate. The corner of his mouth went up slowly,slyly about $500,000 worth of his million-dollar grin. The “food” is on its way.
He quickly turns and sits down.
“Well gentlemen,” he grumbles, with a stern but disarming look on his face. “Where’s the big kahuna?”
“Come on what is this a real business meeting, come on, there’s security there, cops are outside there’s nowhere to go. Frankly I’m amazed you even showed up.”
That’s George Klien, the wily, knocked-kneed CEO of La Hoya Holdings, a gift from his dad. He runs nothing, he draws a paycheck. Batista is the chairman and the “chair,” “man.” But Klien tries to sell his importance anyway, blowing out smoke that’s floating over the long marble table.
Straight out of a comic book, is what Joven’s thinking.
“Frankly I’m surprised you guys let me in.”
The room erupts in nervous laughter.
Klien doesn’t like it. “This isn’t a meeting, you have something to say, you’ve come to turn yourself in, Rafael wouldn’t waste his time with a two-bit punk like you, this isn’t a venue for drug dealers. State your case so I can hit the golf course.” Again, more nervous laughter.
Klien is red with anger. “Everybody shut the hell up!”
Joven smirks. “Well what do you call Colombians? And all the other riff-raff — present company excluded of course — Mr Batista does business with. And for the record I love you too Mr. Klien”
Compressed snickers are palpable in the room now.
“Don’t play games with me little boy, I’d like to see you weasel your way out of this one. We got you by the balls and we’re ready to squeeze.”
“Oooh! don’t squeeze to hard honey.” Room erupts again. Some of these people just don’t know what the real deal is.
“Why you…” Klien starts standing up enraged by the young man’s comical condescendence.
“Enough of this nonsense,” bellowed Orterga with his baritone voice,stepping into the room in a more commanding manner than his son did minutes before. “Sit down please George, let the boy speak so we can all get on with more serious business and hit the golf couse.”
The room erupts in laughter, lambs and jackals being led to the gallows. They all stopped and stared at Juanita’s coke-bottle frame nestled in a deliciously-tailored pinstripe pants suit, her apple-shaped muscular behind that was so defined, people could see it from the front. She sits down and crossed her legs, ivory pumps soft to the touch of the sparse lighting as she swings back in forth in the swivel chair at the base of the table, just far enough away not to intimidate or distract the men but close enough to listen. Now that’s gangster.
Joven and Juanita must have said that in unison as they trade a glance. They must have because they cackle quietly like they’re back on a school yard, playing the dozens, sharing an inside joke.
Ortega, the elder, gives Joven a stone-faced stare and nodded his approval.
Where the hell is Batista, Joven continus thinking.
Screw it. “Yeah George, sit down and let me speak, you, you, Woody Allen look alike.”
“I’m not gonna take much more of this,” roars Klien whose face was red as a beet dipped in Strawberry jam.
Klien is about 5″2—generously—and he has a size complex. He wants to be important like his father, powerful like Batista and cool like Ortega. But everyone in the room knows why Klien is in this position. Nepotism, period, point-blank end of story. He is far from his father—far from gutsy and far from respected. Joven on the other hand, is just like his dad.
“Ok, whatever. First order of business, I’m offering my Santa Maria shares to the you for a generous price of…I”
Juanita’s shifting in the chair interrupted and disturbed him. She licks her lips,puts on lipstick even though it’s clear she already has some on. He discovers something then and there that he never could admit to himself or didnt’ want to . She’s more crafty in these matters - experience aside — than anyone in this room. But she’s still in over her head.
He continues to speak though and Orterga promptly cuts him off.
“Why should we want to hear anything you have to say? The whole world is looking for you right now. Why should we not turn you in? Why not turn yourself in?”
“So turn me in.” Ronaldo snaps. “I’m flipping like a Dolphin mothafuckas. Now watch the government audit your whole company and arrest everyone in this room after I turn fed’s evidence. If my memory serves me correct, I think the audit is already underway. You need the company back so you can clean it up real quick. Man do you really think I would have come here with no bargaining chips. I could have been long gone.”
“Shrewd move.” Ortega shrugged, knowing what he already knew, he’d always known. Ortega is tired, he’s just playing the game to play it.
“I was taught by the best,” Joven winks.
Juanita looks at him longingly, she wanted to touch him she wants his gentle carress. She suddenly wants to have sex for some strange reason. They’d never ever done it and now seemed like the most inappropriately hot time to do it. She put on her best show, he’s buying it but not biting, but not biting at all, she surmises. Most of all she wants him to be a different person and he can never be that.
Her eyes start to water, simply because she’s doing everything in her power not to let them water, kind of like laughing when you can’t in a room full of serious people. The pleas she makes to him with her eyes are futile.
“Now then, Mr. Klien, I trust that you have the paper work ready, $50 million will be transferred to Banco De Primero de Havana.”
The room full of board members frown at such a request, how could they ever justify such an expenditure to shareholders, to regulators, but they have to respect it. He had the leverage. They would all be in jail, if he lives. Give him the money now, kill him later, a couple of them find themselves thinking.
Klein pushes the documents to the head of the desk.
Joven looks the papers over noticing out of the corner of his eyes that caterers with white coats came in and that the guards had locked the door. Signing all the papers he winks at Ortega and chuckled at Klein who was itching to give the guards the order. His ankle hurt with a sweet sting from the sweat and pressure. The gun itched to be pulled and he would. He looks for a spot under the table. It’s a sham. There ain’t no $50 million, unless there is, or maybe they make the wire transfer and then kill him. The caterers are here. The food is
here. Everyone will soon be served. The guards fall in behind him, he can hear the buttons on their coats, coming a loose. It’s that damn quiet.
“These documents have been forwarded to George?”
The other George was his lawyer who was waiting in the Caymans. The fake name of a bank that doesn’t exist in Cuba, with a fake routing number would re-route the transfer to a phantom account if they actually are scared enough to do it. A cellphone rings. That’s the sign that they actually did it. Joven had some staff members place it in the conference room so that George could call and let him know the money is in fac there.
He almost dances. They actually did that shit.
He turns around toward the guards pantomiming like he’s about to box them.
“Back up fellas, may work with the chicks but now me,”
A single bead of sweat trickles down his spine, his tie is stuck to his neck, they’d turned the heat up in the room on his ass like they do in long meetings to get an edge on foes.
His throat sticks together, the guards step closer.
He spies a glass of water.
“Let me propose a toast,” he yells, frightened as a cat at a dog convention, holding up a glass of water. “To all you washed up assholes, bottoms up. Go to hell, from the bottom of my heart.”
That is the signal for them boys–Chico and them — to bring that drama on everyone in the room.
But, nothing happens.
The water bubbles up in his throat nearly choking him as it goes down. Were they all in on it?
TO BE CONTINUED!