The Swamp (Part 21)

There were black clouds on the horizon and faint flickers of lightning. Rodriguez could feel the wind picking up, warm for now, but he had seen these squalls before and knew that in a few hours this could easily turn into a full sized tropical storm, or tropical depression as the TV weather girls called it.

Rodriguez focused on the tiny white boat bobbing gently in the blue-green waves. As they approached it became clear that there was no one on board. He felt the spray of the warm water hitting him as the fishing boat captain gunned the throttle. His deputy, standing on the prow with a gaffer’s hook, turned back and mouthed some words that Rodriguez could not make out over the din of the engines.

Rodriguez gestured to his ears in the international sign of “I can’t hear what you’re saying”. He stood awkwardly, clutching the handrail with both white knuckled fists.

He tried to breathe normally, but was sweating profusely, panic rising in his throat, the atrocious stink coming off him in nauseating waves. The others in the boat gave Rodriguez plenty of space as he shuffled forward, holding onto the railing with both hands and slipping constantly with his black oxfords on the soaking deck. Rodriguez cursed under his breath.

He glanced over the side, terrorized, praying that he would not see a shark’s fin or the fifty foot tentacles of the giant squid, a creature that Rodriguez had only heard about and did not want to ever see in person. He knew there was such an animal because he had seen it in a movie.

“No hay nadie, jefe. There is no one in the boat,” yelled one of his guards, pulling the smaller boat towards them with a gaffer’s hook.

Rodriguez, still hanging on, peered over the edge into the small Kris Kraft. The entire deck was exposed and he could plainly see that there was nothing on it and no one on board.

“Jefe, come on, you can do it.” Chided the Deputy, pointing at the smaller boat and daring Rodriguez to step into it.

“Hey, Deputy Flores, why don’t you help el Jefe get in?” said Cumbreta, the other guard. Flores shot him a dirty look.

“Yes, Flores, come here and just let me support myself on your hand. Watch it, cabron, don’t let go! What the fuck are you doing?” Flores lost his grip on Rodriguez’ hand just as he stepped out of the boat. Rodriguez jackknifed backward and crack, he landed flat on his back right smack dab in the middle of the boat’s deck. He rubbed his back, moaning while looking up in anger.

Flores and Cumbreta tried to suppress their laughter.

Rodriguez was about to yell at the two when something caught his attention. He pushed his hand into a deep puddle of seawater in one corner and pulled out three uneven rocks, each the size of a small almond. He felt the sharp pebbles in his hands, running his fingers over the edges, then gasped as he cleaned them on his shirt, not quite realizing what he had, but knowing that it was at the very least a clue, the only clue so far, to Hendricks’ whereabouts, and quite possibly, something of great value.

“What you got there, boss?” asked Flores.

“Nothing. Nothing but some rocks.” He stuffed them into his pants pockets. “Help me up, cabron! Don’t just stand there!”

A few hours later Rodriguez was back in Santa Catalina. He was in the cheap hotel room that he shared with the other two unhappy deputies. The scratchy towel hanging in front of the makeshift shower had not been used, or even touched for that matter.

For the entire ride back, he had played with the rocks, turning them over and over inside his pocket, and scanning the sea’s horizon for any glimpse of Hendricks or the girl.

Rodriguez also thought a lot of the girl. What would she be like? Would she thank him for rescuing her from the escaped prisoner? Hell, he had probably raped the shit out of her, he thought lasciviously. Shit, she’s probably stark naked, oye caramba! Pura Vida, as the Costa Ricans say, Pure Life. He became aware that he was sporting wood and turned away from the others.

Now, back in his hotel room, he sat on the toilet in the locked bathroom and looked at the rocks carefully. They were definitely hunks of some sort of glassy material. They were dark so he didn’t immediately guess diamonds, but they could be some sort of gem.

He had to find out what they were, but how the hell could he do that, he thought glumly, without attracting too much attention. The fucking warden would find out for sure. Hell, Flores and Cumbreta would probably snitch on him first chance they got, and they were watching him like hawks, just waiting for him to slip up. Cabrones! He would get them someday.

Yeah, he knew they called him asceroso, disgusting, behind his back. He didn’t care. Rodriguez was only interested in one thing, and that was planning and plotting all day long, day after unwashed day, on just how he was going to get rich.

That he was too stupid to ever get rich was also just beyond his intelligence level. He thought that if he just waited long enough, or bought enough lottery tickets, that someday, somehow, his luck would change. He even allowed himself to fantasize that maybe one day he would meet some rich woman and she would fall in love with him.

He believed in fate and he knew that so far, he had been somewhat lucky. In a country as poor as Panama, even having a decent job was something to be somewhat proud of, even if he could never get any farther.

Dumb as he was, even he knew that one could never get rich by being a prison guard.

He took a pull from a bottle of flor de cana rum. Goddamned Nicaraguans, bunch of fucking thieves and whores but they could sure make a damn good bottle of rum.

No, he thought, he had to be careful. Take his time. When the coast was clear once again, he would take a trip to Costa Rica, or Columbia. Somewhere far away from the prying eyes of the warden and Blandon and especially far away from that crazy killer Rosella. Just thinking about that guy gave him the shivers.

He took another long pull straight from the bottle.

Cumbreta banged on the door, startling Rodriguez, “Hey, jefe, I need to use the bathroom. Por favor!”

“Un momento.” He stuffed the rocks back in his pocket, along with the pint of rum.

Before opening the door, he let out a mammoth fart. Cumbreta, holding his nose and cursing, almost passed out as Rodriguez walked by.

“It’s all yours. Have a good time in there. Ha ha ha.”

to be continued

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