CP_V1

I recently had my first novel, A Long Way from Havana, published.  Although writing is not my livelihood, I am very proud of this first effort.

If you would like to read the first few chapters of the novel, please go to amazon.com.  They are available free of charge.  Your comments are welcome, as that is how I can continue to improve my writing.

I have also added to this post the first few chapters of the sequel to “A Long Way from Havana”.  The sequel is untitled as of now but it follows Mike Bonilla’s life after the end of the original novel.    These are the first chapters:

A SEQUEL TO “A LONG WAY FROM HAVANA”

 Winters in Westchester County are dreadful.  The biting cold, snow, ice and unrelenting gray skies are enough to depress the hell out of any sane person.  Add a stiff wind to that mix and you have the perfect prescription for misery.  No amount of layers, thermal underwear, gloves or hats can make anyone comfortable under those conditions.  Those cold, cold mornings were enough to make the most devoted snow bunny wish for a warm, sunny breeze sitting near the ocean somewhere along Longboat Key with a frosty tropical drink in one hand and a Stephen King novel in the other.  But, to be perfectly honest, if awful winters were the price to pay for a glorious mid-April morning like this, then Stella DeAngelis was willing to accept the charges.

Those were the thoughts going around her mind as she set out on her morning “constitutional” which meant walking the dog for the second time since breakfast and picking up the mail from the box at the end of her driveway.  After getting the girls ready for school, Stella’s routine consisted of clearing up the breakfast dishes, putting on sweat pants, sneakers and a sweatshirt in order to allow Pancho to empty his bladder and bowels in one of his favorite spots around the block.  She actually enjoyed the chance to get out of the house but having to clean up after Pancho was totally disgusting.  As hard as she tried, she could not understand what her daughters and her husband saw in that dog.  Part bulldog and part spawn of Satan, Pancho was not only ugly, short and mean-looking – he was also the dumbest dog in creation.  When yelled at for slobbering all over the floor or eating a tulip, he would look up with an expression that clearly said “What do you want from me?  I’m just a dumb dog”.

Pete and Stella DeAngelis, still in their late 30s, had much to be thankful for.  The great recession of 2008 had actually benefited them.  Pete’s job at a Wall Street investment company had survived untouched during the almost 2 years of crisis and that had enabled them to purchase their home in an upper middle class suburb of New York City at recession-level prices.  More than 8 years later, they had made a comfortable life for themselves and their two daughters.  Stella could not imagine life without Pete, Renee and Roxie.  Her husband was the ideal man.  Caring, loving and a great provider, Pete was the perfect father as well.  His joy at seeing his daughters when he came home in the evening would make him light up.  On weekends when he could spend time with them and take them to softball games or soccer practice, Stella was hard pressed to know which one of the three was having the most fun.  Being with the girls brought out the kid in Pete and Stella loved him even more for that.

As the years went by the one tragic bump in her life so far was beginning to recede from memory ever so slowly.  Just prior to her marriage to Pete, Stella’s sister Roxanne, a young prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, had mysteriously disappeared.  In spite of a prolonged and extensive investigation, no trace of Roxanne or her car had ever been found.  For many years Stella hoped and prayed that one day Roxanne would call and tell her what had happened.  On her wedding day, Stella could think of nothing else but not having her big sister as her maid of honor.  Even now very seldom did a day go by without her wondering if Roxanne was still alive and how her daughters would react if their aunt ever came into their lives.

Her eyes were moist with almost-there tears for her sister when Stella got to her mailbox.  Vicky, the mail delivery lady, had just waved as she drove by in her shiny USPS truck and John, their neighbor across the street, was already rummaging through his mailbox in his customary overalls and slippers.  Stella hoped that by the time Pete got that old he would know better than to dress like a character from The Beverly Hillbillies.

The mailbox contents were the usual mix.  Like a bad recipe, it was always one-half junk mail, one-quarter bills and one-quarter magazines.  Today, however, there was an actual letter with a first class stamp and a return address from Dallas.  The only person she knew in Texas was her second cousin who lived in Austin.  Stella wondered if perhaps a college friend of Pete had moved there and was writing to him but when she took a good look at the envelope, it was addressed to her, not to Pete.  She wanted to open it right then and there but Pancho was tired of being outside and kept pulling her back to the front door.  It would have to wait.

The phone was ringing as Stella opened the door.  Pancho made a beeline to his bowl where the disgusting goo he devoured twice a day was waiting for him.  Add terrible eating habits to the derogatory qualities that dog possessed.  To add insult to injury, it was customary for Pancho to pass gas as soon as he ate his meal.  Why couldn’t her kids have chosen goldfish for a pet?

Stella picked up on the fourth ring.  It was her mother, Adriana, calling from North Carolina to let her know she and Mike were making their way back to New York from their three-and-one-half month winter migration to their condo in Fort Lauderdale.  They were having a good time heading back, hitting their favorite eateries along I-95 and absolutely taking their time.  As usual, Adriana asked about the girls and Pete while Mike shouted a big “I love you” over the car’s Bluetooth system.  Adriana asked if she and Mike could stop by this weekend to see the girls.  They had presents for Renee and Roxie, as they did every time they came back from Florida.  Stella did not want them spoiled but she realized that in a few more years the girls would probably not be as delighted to see their grandparents as they were now.

Stella was glad that her mother would be home soon.  She missed her.  Mike was another story.  Honestly, she did not mind him.  Mike had been the rock on which her mother leaned during the years they had been together.  Stella’s father, Julio, had passed away not long after the disappearance of Roxanne and her mother was devastated by the double loss.  Mike was there not only for Adriana but also for Stella.  Had it not been for Mike, Stella wasn’t sure how things would have turned out.  But, for all that he meant to her mother and for all that he had done for all of them, there was something about Mike that put Stella off.  She knew that it had hurt Mike but she had insisted on having Adriana walk her down the aisle when she married Pete.  Mike had offered but Stella could not bring herself to accept.  She really did not know why she could not cotton to Mike.  Many times Stella thought it had to do with the way he behaved with Adriana.  The man was like an 18-year-old when it came to her mother.  He was constantly hugging and kissing her and the gleam in his eyes when he looked at Adriana was one of pure lust.  For all the gold in Fort Knox, Stella could not figure him out.  On a few occasions her mother had hinted that Mike’s libido was that of a man 40 years younger.  Maybe her feelings towards Mike had to do with a few things her sister had confided in her when they were both very young.  Back then, Mike was “Uncle Mike”, an old friend of the family who had grown up with their mother in the old neighborhood.  Roxanne had told Stella that Mike was not to be trusted.  When she asked why, Roxanne would only say it was a feeling she had.  In a subsequent conversation when Stella was in college, Roxanne said that she thought Mike had feelings for their mother and that a situation like that would be very hurtful to the whole family, especially to their father.

As Stella opened the refrigerator to see if divine inspiration would help her figure out what she would cook for dinner, out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed at the mail she had dropped on the kitchen counter as she reached for the phone to take her mother’s call.  There on top of the magazines, was that letter.  She closed the fridge door and decided to take a few minutes to find out who had written her from Texas.  Stella sat down on one of the stools that surrounded her comfortable center island, opened the envelope, and began reading:

Dear Stella,

My name is Craig Burns.  I am a retired NYPD officer who used to know your mom more than 35 years ago.  Adriana and I met while we were both taking computer courses at City College.  At the time I had just put in my retirement papers after twenty years on the force and I wanted to get an education in the field of computers and programming.  Back then the industry was in its infancy and I thought that getting my feet wet in the field would allow me to open a computer repair/consulting office upon my return to Texas where I was born and spent part of my early life.

My parents moved to New York when my dad was transferred by the company he used to work for.  I was 13 at the time and, frankly, I hated to leave my friends and my school in Dallas but at that age there isn’t much you can do about things like that.  So, before I knew it I found myself living in the middle of Manhattan in a three bedroom apartment in an old, ugly building with a pervert for a doorman and a creaky elevator that always smelled of cigar smoke.  I could not believe my parents had traded the wide open skies of Texas and our great house with a huge backyard in exchange for the rat race that New York seemed to be.  I guess I don’t have to tell you that I hated school, made very few friends and that by the time my senior year of high school came around, my marks made going to college a complete impossibility.  Facing grim prospects for employment, I turned to the one employer that never rejected any candidates – good old Uncle Sam.  I was just shy of my 18th birthday when I came out of school, so I had to convince my parents to sign my induction papers into the Army.  It was probably the best decision I ever made.  I got lucky enough to do my stretch in Germany where I enjoyed the beer, the frauleins and the many cultural opportunities.  In fact, I liked it so much that I almost re-enlisted, but a few weeks before I was to sign for a four-year stretch, my mother wrote me to say that the NYPD was looking for candidates and that military service would give me a leg up on the hiring list.  The pay was a heck of a lot better than I was getting from the Army and the idea of making a few bad guys toe the line appealed to me.  So, I ended my career in the military, went back to New York and within a few months I was in the Police Academy becoming one of New York’s Finest.

For most of my twenty years on the force I was assigned to the 50th Precinct near the Riverdale section of The Bronx.  In those days, that area was so tranquil that most cops referred to it as the “country club”.  Honestly, I don’t remember anything happening that was more serious than the occasional domestic violence call or a grisly auto accident.  So, before I knew it, I had put in 20 years of service and The Big Apple was offering me a wonderful pension at the ripe old age of 41.  How could I say no?  I put in my papers and found myself looking for something to do for the rest of my life.  My father had retired and he and my mother had moved down to Sarasota to enjoy the leisurely life of gray haired snowbirds, complete with the requisite membership in their development’s canasta club and the half-price coupons for senior citizens who did not mind having dinner before 3:30PM.

It was then that your mother and I met in college.  She was first in the class to finish her assignments while I was the dummy struggling with all those ones and zeros that made no sense to me.  I don’t mind telling you that her looks attracted me from day one but it was her innate intelligence that absolutely sealed the deal.  One day after class I asked her for help with a particularly difficult programming exercise we had been assigned.  I offered to buy her coffee if she would give me a hand figuring the whole thing.  Over coffee we got to know each other outside of class.  She told me about your sister Roxanne, her husband and the day-to-day things that we call life.  I told her about my time in Germany and my recently finished career with the NYPD.  For some reason she seemed impressed with the fact that I was a retired cop.  As the weeks wore on, I got the impression that finances were tight for her and that she was going to school to make things better.  I asked her why her husband wasn’t pulling his own weight but soon realized that this was a topic better left untouched.  I offered to lend her some money but she would not hear of it.

The week prior to the end of the semester, I noticed Adriana was not quite herself.  By then we would have coffee and a danish once a week after class.  On that particular afternoon, as she sat across the booth in the diner on 110th Street, I noticed there were tears in her eyes.  I asked her what was wrong but she was reluctant to talk about it.  I insisted and gradually she started to tell me about Julio’s indiscretions.  Apparently, she had caught your father cheating on her once again.  Adriana mentioned how Julio had been unfaithful many times during their marriage, including while she was pregnant with your sister.  Your mother was humiliated and at a loss regarding her future.  A woman back then with a young daughter did not have the same options as she would have today.  She was fighting her tears but eventually she let go.  Instinctively I reached out for her hand as a way to console her but as I did I realized that my feelings for her exceeded that of a friend lending a shoulder to cry on.  I knew then and there that I was falling in love with her.

After we left the diner, I insisted that she accept my offer of a cab ride to her place.  I held her hand in the cab all the way up Broadway to the apartment she shared with Julio and Roxanne up on 157th Street near Riverside Drive.  I gave her my phone number and asked her to call me at any time.  The next afternoon I waited for Adriana outside of class.  I knew there would be nothing of importance going on that day, so as soon as I saw her I asked her to skip class and spend some time talking about what we had discussed the previous day.  Adriana promptly agreed and we headed off towards Lewisohn Stadium where the school’s orchestra practiced almost every afternoon.  We made our way up the bleachers where we could talk while enjoying the pieces being played.  I remember that afternoon they were rehearsing semi-classical Latin American  compositions, with an emphasis on Lecuona.  In short order the orchestra went through the strains of Siboney, Malagueña, La Habanera, La Comparsa and a beautiful song I remembered my mother used to sing.  Adriana knew the song and when I asked her about it, she told me it was called Siempre En Mi Corazon.  To my surprise, she slowly started to sing the lyrics in her sweet and soothing voice.  I asked her what the words meant and she told me it had to do with a couple that for whatever circumstances, were far from each other.  He tells her that she is always in his heart no matter how far and that in his bitter loneliness the memory of their love is the only balm for his pain.  He goes on to say that he knows they will never again be together, that he will always be a prisoner of her love but that nothing will ever stop his loving her because she will forever be the sole owner of his heart.

It was then that I pulled your mother close to me and kissed her.  I knew my life would never again be the same from that moment on.  Stella, during the weeks that followed that magical moment we fell in love.  Adriana and I made plans to move to Texas with your sister.  I arranged to terminate the lease on my apartment in New York and rented a house in Dallas for us to live in until we found a home that we could purchase.  I don’t have to tell you those weeks were the happiest time of my life.  Less than one week before we were ready to make the move, Adriana called.  She asked me to sit down and proceeded to tell me that she could not move to Texas because she was pregnant with you.  I was stunned, speechless.  If she was pregnant, then it must have been with my child but she stubbornly denied that possibility and told me to forget about her and go on with my life.  I made a last ditch effort to convince her to be with me, even going as far as showing up at her door on the Saturday morning we had planned to leave.  There was an ugly scene where I told Julio who I was and what I was there for.  Adriana asked me to step outside and told me once and for all that she would not leave, that the child growing inside her was Julio’s and not mine.

I drove to Dallas right from your mother’s place.  From that day I never looked back.  A couple of years after opening my business on Mockingbird Lane I met a lovely lady whose husband had died from a sudden heart attack several years before and we started dating.  We became friends before we even knew it and one day we proposed to each other.  Yes, it was a very mutual decision, one that neither one of us regretted for the 24 years we were together.  My beautiful Clara passed away last year.  We never had children and we were careful with our investments, so with what we put away during those years and with my pension, I found myself ready to hang up the spikes.  It was during one of those lazy afternoons that I did a Facebook search for your mother.  While looking through her photo albums I came across several photos of you.  Stella, you could have knocked me down with a feather!  You are the very image of my mother when she was your age.  You have her cheek bones, my smile and the same color blue eyes that I do.  I showed my friend Jim your photos and his first reaction was to ask me if you were a daughter I had never told him about.

Before you think you are being contacted by some sort of nut, please hear me out.  I always suspected I was your father.  Your mom’s denial was too strong, too sure and, like a fool in love that I was, I had no choice but to believe her.  However, I am not a believer in coincidence.  There is no way we can look so much alike if you were Julio’s biological daughter.  Please trust me, I am not a deranged person nor am I writing this letter for any ulterior motive.  I truly believe in what I have stated and I would like you to at least give me a chance to find out the truth.  I am in my early seventies and have no living blood relatives.  If I am wrong, then OK.  I will never bother you again.  I have enclosed a photo of myself at my retirement party from the NYPD.  I was 41 years old then, just a few years older than you are now.  If I am not mistaken and if you will examine that photo with an open mind, I think you will agree that there is a very strong resemblance between us.

Please talk this over with your husband or a friend you can trust.  I would appreciate it if you did not mention it to Adriana.  It would only bring up unpleasant memories for her.  I am sure she would deny it out of embarrassment, if for no other reason.  I am not interested in hurting anyone nor am I attempting to rekindle a relationship with your mom.  I am sure she is happy and has been so for many years.  What we once had took place many moons ago and that is precisely where it should stay.

Would you be willing to talk to me, even if it is only on the phone?  My number is (214) 555-3711.  Now that I’m retired I spend a lot of time at home reading or taking care of the lawn, so you can probably reach me at any time during the week or weekend.

Stella, I trust you will believe me that this is not some crazy notion from a psycho with a twisted sense of humor.  You can check all the information I have given you by simply contacting NYPD.  They obviously have my files and they can verify my home address for you.  I look forward to the opportunity of knowing once and for all if my suspicions are correct.

All the best,

Craig Burns

CHAPTER TWO

Jim Bowen had just been promoted to detective after serving what he considered countless years in the New York City Police Department as a foot patrol officer at first and, later on, as a desk sergeant in the Midtown South Division.  His real aim this time had been to become a forensic accountant and work on the fraud and “white collar” crimes division.  His inability, however, to grasp the ramifications of the accounting theory, as demonstrated by his dismal failure to pass even the beginning courses, had relegated him to this new dead end position in the Cold Case Department.  Perhaps the forensic job would have become a bore with time and he might have missed the excitement he had learned to live for despite, or even because, of the dangers it posed.  But, whatever its shortcomings, the job would have provided him with the possibility of serious advancement within the NYPD and he may have pursued the idea of having a steady girl, a home in a nearby suburb and even a family of his own.  In this shit hole of a position, the best he could hope for was a watch upon his retirement.  And certainly not a Rolex.

His father, James Patrick Bowen, had instilled in him impeccable work ethics, having been a man of little education who found his livelihood in the retail meat business.  Towards the end of his active life, James Patrick had succeeded in establishing himself in the old Irish neighborhood, providing reasonably priced meat products and an unending repertoire of witticisms to his many customers.  Every March 17th he would dispense free Irish whiskey to his steady clientele and spend the day belting out a medley of Irish songs in a mix of heavily accented New York English and watered down Gaelic, all of which would end with the ever-present “Erin Go Bragh”.  If Jim had had a nickel for every time he heard his father’s loud but off-key rendition of “Danny Boy” he was sure he would be retired by now and living in the lap of luxury.

Jim’s mother, Margarita Gutierrez, could not have been more different from his father.  She had been born near the town of San Luis in the easternmost province of Oriente in Cuba.  She was of mixed ancestry, having both Spanish and African features.  This helped make her a very attractive and exotic woman in general, totally irresistible to an Irish butcher whose horizons never stretched west of the George Washington Bridge or south of Brooklyn.  Margie, as she became known in the States, was a happy, outgoing woman.  She had a way with a song and could dance any rhythm with grace, but she really excelled in her native beats including the Mambo, the Son, and the Cha-Cha-Cha.  At times she spoke with nostalgia about her family and friends who had stayed behind in Cuba all those years.  Regardless of her inner feelings, Margie had always been the perfect wife and mother.  Jim could not recall one instant when he had felt less than totally loved by his devoted mother.

Now settled into his new position, Jim had been assigned a case that his boss felt had been neglected for too many years.  It involved the disappearance of an assistant district attorney from the Manhattan DA’s office.  He had spent the last couple of hours looking through the file and had really come across nothing that would lead him to any significant conclusion.  The young woman had vanished along with her car into thin air.  Jim figured this could very well be a case of a spoiled kid with a college degree getting fed up with her responsibilities.  Perhaps she had decided to sow some wild oats, had wandered into the wrong side of the tracks and had come to a bad end.  The powers that be at the time of the incident seemed to lean towards the theory that she had been done in by someone she had put in jail during the course of her short career.  Many were questioned but no serious suspect had emerged from the pages and pages of interrogations.  Newspaper clippings at the time related details of the crime in an effort to elicit tips from the public.  A $25,000 reward had been posted which brought forth the usual array of lunatics but nothing of any credence had ever materialized.  In spite of many searches through airport parking lots and shopping malls, her car was never found.  Jim decided to place the file back into the cabinet for a while and try to sort out just what had happened to Roxanne Reyes.  Later on he would sink his teeth into some administrative duties he had neglected.  But right now he was determined that the only thing his teeth would sink into was some hot Cuban food he had been craving for a while.  He knew just the place.

Jim walked into Vicente’s Café happy to be outside of the office breathing fresh air (or as fresh as it gets in New York).  Going through all the misery in those files could get anyone depressed.  Fortunately for him, right in front of him stood a good cure for the blues.  Alina noticed him right away and waved him over to one of her tables.  As usual she was wearing her blue uniform and coifed hair.  To be perfectly honest, the uniform could have used a wash but her face was as fresh as the first day he had met her at Vicente’s.  Jim smiled at her and shouted a greeting in the half Cuban/half gringo accent that reflected the conflicting influences of his mixed ancestry.

“Alina, mi amiga.  ¿Qué hay de bueno hoy?  I’m hungry.  Mucho hambre.”

“Ay, muchacho.  Tu sabes que aquí todo es bueno, comenzando por mi, mi amor.”

Jim loved the way Alina addressed his as “muchacho”.  It reminded him of his mother when he was growing up.  Alina’s mention that everything on the menu looked as good as she did gave Jim an inner sense of belonging and familiarity, something he craved.  He knew there was nothing sexual about her remark.  It was just a Cuban thing to flirt well into old age without any real meaning behind it.  He felt at home.

“Dame el especial de oxtail stew con red beans, white rice and maduros”.

And with that Jim sat down to wait for a meal that his mother had fixed for him and his father so many times.  Instead of serving the oxtail stew with black beans, as was the custom in Havana, in Oriente where her mother hailed from the dish was always accompanied by kidney beans.  The maduros, or ripe friend bananas, would give the meal a semi sweet taste that every Cuban, even a half-breed like him, cannot resist.

After lunch Jim treated himself to a steaming demi-tasse of rich, strong Cuban coffee drowned in the traditional small mountain of white sugar.  While savoring the coffee he yearned for a good Cuban cigar.  Of course, that could not happen.  The cigar stench on his clothes would make him persona non grata with his co-workers.  A guy can dream, can’t he?

“Bye, Alina.  Gracias por todo.  Te veo otro día.”

“Bye, Papi.  Besitos.  Vete por la sombrita”.

With that Jim left Vicente’s and dragged himself back to the office, making sure he followed Alina’s advice to walk on the shady side of the street.

Upon returning to his desk, Jim’s intentions of delving a bit deeper into the Roxanne Reyes case got sidetracked by the stack of phone calls that had to be returned a.s.a.p.  Afterwards, he had to fill out his time sheet along with a shitload of meaningless reports that no one would ever read.  Since the automation and decentralization of the NYPD in the early 90s, crime had plummeted in the Big Apple.  But the cost of that achievement was reflected  in the mountains of reports that had to be filed with zillions of departmental heads, all of whom demanded the crossing of all t’s and the dotting of all i’s so everything could be in perfect order when they sat down with the Chief of Police, the Mayor and their flunkies at the weekly meeting that took place every Friday afternoon at One Police Plaza.  God have mercy on the poor bastard that showed up less than totally prepared!  It wasn’t unheard of for a high-ranking captain to break down in tears after those dogs finished tearing into him for some real or perceived error.

So, it wasn’t until well after 6:00PM that Jim had a chance to get back to the Reyes file.  Glancing through one of the canvassing reports, a yellowed piece of paper slipped out of the file and onto his lap.  The note was handwritten on a letterhead from Barrantes Associates, an architectural firm with offices on West 28th Street in Manhattan.  It was dated almost ten years to the date and was addressed to the Chief of Detectives, New York City Police Department.  It read as follows:

“In the matter of Roxanne Reyes’ disappearance, I strongly urge you to look into Miguel Bonilla as a potential suspect.  I am personally acquainted with Mr. Bonilla and, although I have no hard evidence to back up this assertion, I strongly suspect that he was directly or indirectly involved in Ms. Reyes’ tragedy.

Before you file this message under the hundreds of tips I am sure you have received from the public, allow me to state that I am not looking to cash in on the reward being offered in the press.  Should my suggestion prove of value, you may donate any money due me to a charity of your choice.

Should you wish to contact me for further information on this matter, please call me during business hours at the telephone number listed on this letterhead.”

The letter was signed by a Tony Barrantes, A.I.A., President of Barrantes Associates.

Jim did not know why the letter had been included with other important reports and interviews on the case.  Perhaps it had just been left in the file as an example of the type of letter received from well-intentioned but totally clueless individuals.  On the other hand, the fact that it was written on a company letterhead by the firm’s president made it stand out from the average note usually handwritten in childish block letters.  A lot of those notes usually had so many grammatical errors, they were at best laughable and at worst almost impossible to comprehend.  This fellow wrote well, mentioned he knew Mr. Bonilla personally and, most interesting, had no wish to collect a reward.  Jim would have to look into this and find out who Barrantes is or was.  If still around, maybe Jim would try to get in touch with him.  Perhaps this case would not be so dull after all but now it was time to call it a day and head home.  His boss would not authorize one minute’s worth of overtime pay.

Jim got to his apartment on West 96th Street and decided to skip dinner. He was still too full from the great meal at Vicente’s.  He poured himself a cold Heineken’s and before he knew it he was in bed, dog tired and frustrated.  He turned the TV on and watched CNN for a while but could not get the Reyes case out of his head.  What really went on the day that young woman disappeared?  Was she alone?  Could there be more than one perpetrator or, even worse, more than one victim?  Did the detectives who investigated the case bother to see if a similar disappearance had taken place shortly before or after this one?  He would contact everyone in the NYPD who had anything to do with the case.  He would also re-interview her coworkers at the DA’s office, her personal friends and the guy with whom she shared the apartment where she lived.  If he recalled correctly, one of the investigators had scribbled a notation on the margin of that interview’s transcript expressing his suspicion that Ms. Reyes and the guy had a type of “friends with benefits” relationship.  Lastly, he would contact the family as a courtesy to let them know that he had been assigned to the case.  Of course, he would give them the old bullshit line about no case every being closed until the culprits are brought to justice.  If they only knew.

With that Jim turned off the lights and started to drift off.  The nagging persisted for a while and he started to regret once again not passing those damned accounting tests.  In his semi-conscious state he imagined himself as an ace C.P.A. master of assets, liabilities and depreciation schedules.

Jim woke up to the ringing of the phone on his night table.  Groggy and feeling less than totally awake he grabbed the receiver figuring it had to be some sort of emergency at the office.  As he grunted “Hello” he took a quick look at the alarm clock and immediately realized he had overslept again.  Damn, what excuse could he come up with this time around?

“Detective Bowen, my chum.  Are you awake yet?  This is Eileen, your fuck friend.  Do you remember me?  I’m the one you always take for granted”.

“Hi, Gorgeous.  What do you mean I take you for granted.  You know you are always on my mind”.

“Bullshit, but there’s no time for chit chat.  What are you up to today?  I could come over right now.”

“Of course you can.  I always have time for you.  And even when I don’t, I still make time”.  Jim was hoping she was only kidding about coming over now, but wanted to leave the door open for tonight.

“Listen, Jim.  I will be out of town for few days starting tomorrow.  I’m too horny to wait until the weekend.”

Instantly, Jim started working on a list of excuses to give his boss for what promised to be a very late appearance at his desk.

“I’m horny, too, Babe.  And where the hell are you going now?” he asked.

“Never mind.  I’ll tell you when I get there.  See you in a bit”.

Energized by what was a most unexpected phone call, Jim jumped out of bed, took a leak, brushed his teeth and jumped in the shower.  The steaming hot water finally worked his muscles into action and the lethargy in his brain started to lift.  He threw on his bathrobe and headed for the kitchen.  As he poured himself a glass of orange juice, he turned on his Keurig, hoping the coffee would be ready before Eileen showed up.

The door bell rang almost at the very moment when the coffee maker stopped dripping into his cup.  Instantenously, Jim felt his penis start to harden at the anticipation of having Eileen naked in his bed.

Not given to exaggeration, especially in matters of the female category, Jim had developed a distinct taste for women as a result of the many years he had been playing the field with no intention of ever getting serious with any of his previous conquests.  His ideal woman had to embody maturity and sensuality wrapped around exquisite physical attributes and a sharp intellect.  In his estimation, Eileen had all of them in abundance.

Eileen entered the apartment with her eyes fixed on Jim.  In a split second she was clinging to him and delighting his every sense with soft kisses on his face and neck.  Jim, already aroused, by the thought of what would take place in the next few minutes, returned every kiss as he started to fondle her back and breasts.  He pushed her slightly away as he admired her from head to toe.  She was wearing a light colored blouse with a black skirt slit on the side.  Her amazing legs were bare and beautifully tanned.  Without any prodding on his part, Eileen opened her blouse, exposing the black bra which wonderfully pushed up her full, round breasts.  Jim fumbled with the snap and quickly pulled it off, exposing the breasts he so much enjoyed touching and sucking.  Eileen rewarded him by opening his robe and pressing herself against his hairy chest.  Grabbing her around her luscious ass, Jim pushed his groin against her so she could feel the thing that would have her groaning in no time.  He got on his knees and lowered Eileen’s skirt’s zipper, removing it and her thong in one swift motion.  Slowly parting her legs, Jim buried himself in her dark blonde hair.  In no time, Eileen laid down by the foot of his bed and opened her legs to his tongue.  By the time he penetrated her, Eileen had had the first of several orgasms she would enjoy with Jim.

CHAPTER THREE

Pete walked in shortly before 7:00PM and gave the family the usual greeting in his absolutely awful Ricky Ricardo accent:

“Lucy, I’m home!”

Renee and Roxie immediately jumped to their feet and ran to hug their father as he asked which one to kiss first in mock confusion.  Stella put down the stack of plates she was getting from the cupboards and joined the celebration going on in the living room.  She kissed Pete on the cheek (the girls thought it was gross if they kissed on the lips).  She informed all three that dinner was ready and noticed the girls’ eyes light up at being told tonight they were having picadillo with white rice, black beans and sweet ripe bananas.  A true Cuban feast.  To accommodate the girls’ finicky tastes she left out capers and olives from the dish.  Otherwise, it was as genuine as you could order in the small restaurants anywhere around Little Havana.

Stella received raving reviews on her culinary prowess from Renee, Roxie and Pete with all three of them making a Diet Coke toast “to the chef”.  Pete told the girls he was working on getting four sky boxes tickets to an early season Yankees game.  One of the partners in his office had taken a liking to him and mentioned that he would let Pete and the family use his season tickets towards the end of April when he would be unable to attend.  The girls whooped with delight and got up to finish whatever school work they had been assigned.  After clearing the dishes and loading the dishwasher, Stella showed Pete the letter she had received from Craig Burns.

“What is this”, Pete asked her.

“Read it.  Then tell me what you think.  I don’t know what to say”, Stella answered him.

Not having a clue as to what could make Stella look so glum, his imagination went into overdrive.  Could it be from someone in Stella’s past?  He knew damn well that his wife had always been a model wife and mother but she was an adult by the time they had met…..

To purchase “A Long Way from Havana”, please go to http://www.amazon.com/Long-Way-Havana-M-Buendia/dp/1478728000/.