HANGNAIL PHILLIPS WRITINGS – “CARLOS MYSTERIOSO” – originally a myspace illustrated novella – ILLUSTRATION BY MONIKA BULLETTE


The Beach
I am a beach magician. I wear just a thong and play Flamenco for the foreigners. I am online for five minutes and already have a friend! Once I was a lion tamer’s clown. If he was mauled I have to save him by being funny to the lion and maybe get killed myself. I quit after two days and became a magician. I will now disappear.

7:11 PM – Monday, April 18, 2005

The Rain
Some friends care deeply about the rain. It gets them wet and they don’t like to feel the little cold drops hitting their heads and soaking into their hair. These same people love to shower and feel the warm water hit their heads and soak into their hair. Carlos doesn’t care of this. It never rains here and I don’t shower. But I feel for my distant friends who have their private little problems. Perhaps if it were always sunny and one always NEEDED a shower, one would embrace the rain.

7:19 AM – Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Mother
Carlos thinks long of this. Mothers are wonderful as they sacrifice so much, but why? So their offspring can talk back and tell them how useless they are? Maybe if they live a week with no parents to feed and protect them they would feel differently. Then, Carlos thinks, they would truly understand the value of a Mother. The value of a father is to write blog for Mothers. Fathers are strong and stoic, and if they have to be, violent. Children should be thankful that they have a Mother to protect them when Father has had enough.

6:35 AM – Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Sun
The sun is like a beautiful woman. It’s warmth comforts Carlos from afar. But approach too closely and it will blind him and blister his skin. When a woman is exposed for all to see, she is like the sun without clouds; her radiance, too intense.

Beyond the sun there are countless other suns, but mine is the closest and warmest. Carlos has no desire to go beyond. It is a long journey and he knows nothing of these suns.

9:33 AM – Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Huracan
Never before has Carlos seen such an angry sea! The wind blew away the only tarp leaving Carlos alone on the beach with nothing over his head. It has never rained in Montage ever before. It has never been so dark at daytime. I feared that Carlos’ sun was gone forever. Against a mighty wind Carlos shook his staff angrily at the sky and screamed “Go back to the Hell from which you came!!”

Suddenly the wind stopped but not before rushing the clouds away from his beautiful sun. The birds again fly. People came from everywhere crowding around Carlos to praise him for saving them. Now we must all search for a new tarp to once again protect Carlos from the sun.

5:54 AM – Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Tarp
The beach was cluttered with debris. Carlos walked carefully through beach chairs, towels, drift wood and dead fish looking for his tarp. Little Juan came running up shouting excitedly, “Carlos! Carlos! I found your tarp!” Carlos accepted the old fishing net that Juan had saying “Gracias, Little Juan. You have made Carlos very happy.” But Carlos was not happy. The net would never be able replace his tarp.

Then, as if his vison had returned, Carlos saw the tarp just ahead under a piece of siding that was once part of the tamale stand. Carlos hurried through the sand and trash until the toes of his right foot hit the siding. Bending down, searching with both hands, Carlos felt the heavy canvas tarp. It is here!

But the storm had beaten holes into it, a large hole in the center and smaller holes. Tears began to well up in his sightless eyes. What was Carlos to do now?

“Carlos”, spoke a soft gentle voice. Carlos turned in the direction of the sound and in his mind saw a beautiful golden goddess. “You have saved your friends from the storm and you will have your tarp.” With this, she disappeared as well as the holes.

“Look everyone! Carlos has found his tarp!!!”, cried out one of the beachcombers. Another said, “There were holes in it and I saw them vanish with my own eyes!” “Carols is truly magic.”

9:03 PM – Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Dawn
Carlos has never seen the sun come up in the morning but rather he tastes it in the air. Something changes that Carlos has never been able to explain and he knows that his sun has arrived. The birds know even before Carlos and announce the coming change. Their increasing busyness lead right up to the salty taste on Carlos’ tongue that says, “It’s time”.

The sand that has collected in his beard and hair through the night is rustled out first, then his shirt and pants. Carlos can feel that the sand is still cool because the sunlight has still not hit the beach from over the trees that line it. Today Carlos wishes he was not awake with his sun because his head is throbbing. After his show on the previous night a wonderful man from Brazil gave him what he thought was a dollar. But when Carlos went to spend the dollar for a tostado he was given much change in return. He asked the stand owner how much the change was and found that he still had over nineteen dollars.

Carlos went to the winery and bought the biggest bottle of sangria that he could afford. Being blind and also drunk is a distinct disadvantage. If not for Carlos’ staff and the kind people who helped him to the beach he may have spent the night asleep in some public place, exposed for all to see. But under the safety of his tarp he was able to sleep without humiliation. Carlos’ magic may have brought him much money the night before, but today, with the new sun, his magic could not stop his pounding head.

12:15 AM – Sunday, June 05, 2005

The War
Carlos has only fought in one war. The military has no patience for a blind soldier. In 1969, Carlos was invited to ride in a truck to a very exciting event. It was a soccer game between El Salvador and Honduras! On the long ride everyone was upset with Honduras because they had deported thousands of Salvadorians that worked in their country. “We will show them” my friends were saying, “We will win the soccer game and they will be humiliated to the world for what they have done.”

Carlos knew nothing of all this and listened intently. To Carlos a large gathering of people meant large donations for his magic. At the game the players began shouting at each other. One man said, “What is he doing?! That is against the rules!!” The sound of the crowd became more and more angry as the players on the field broke into a fight. The fight was soon joined by thousands of people pushing and shoving and calling out names.

Carlos felt the people close in around him. “Give me room!” he shouted, “I am but a poor blind man who cares nothing of this!”. Suddenly Carlos felt something hard hit him in the back of his head. In fury he lifted his staff above his head and began to swing. “Look out!” he heard one woman scream. With great force his staff connected. With what, he did not know but the crowd was backing off of Carlos who had found himself locked in a morass of entropy.

The war raged on for four days. Carlos had managed to find shelter a few miles away from the fighting. Eventually, his friends found him and led him back to the truck for the bumpy journey back to Montage.

Once home, Carlos swore to himself he would never go to a soccer game again.

7:35 AM – Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Escombros
Carlos likes to play with the children a game he calls “Madera Flotante”. They walk up and down the beach and the children bring Carlos pieces of things that have washed up on shore. Carlos holds the item and then tells a story to the children about what it is and where it came from. Carlos often goes into a long explanation while the children stand spellbound at the tale, like the day they brought him a mailbox still on it’s wooden post. Carlos felt it and began a story of how it had been a piece of armour once worn by a Conquistador. When the children laughed and told him’ “Oh Carlos, it is a mailbox!” he went on to explain that many years later a poor woman, who could not afford to buy a place for her mail, turned it into one.

On this day the children brought him a portion of a wooden railing. Carlos held it close to his body and said, “Carlos can see a ship. It is on fire and people are jumping into the sea to escape the flames.” “Why is the ship on fire?” asked Santos. “There was a great explosion”, replied Carlos, “Everyone perished”. The children were upset with what Carlos was saying. This was not like the other times they’ve played “Madera Flotante” when they laughed and cheered.

Carlos did not feel well and needed to rest so he sat on the bench near the shops. Some of the children sat quietly around him. The silence was broken when Flor, who was fifteen, came running up with the newspaper. “Carlos was right!”, she shouted “Look at the headlines!!!”… “El barco, Escombros, hunde de la costa de El Salvador”.

Once again the children sat quietly with their amazing friend Carlos.

6:38 AM – Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Shell Trick
Carlos had noticed that Juanita was always unhappy. It was in her nature. She would often go to Carlos to talk because Carlos made Juanita feel better. Carlos always remained stoic and peaceful in spite of all his obvious disadvantages.

On this day Juanita was unhappy about her feet. “They are so ugly!”, she cried to Carlos, “I can’t wear sandals like the other children”. Carlos could not look at Juanita’s feet but he was sure they were just feet anyway and were not any uglier than anyone else’s feet.

“I need three shells and a pebble”, Carlos told Juanita, “Then we can talk”. A few moments later she returned with his request. Carlos held the pebble in his hand and then showed it to Juanita. “This is happiness”, Carlos told her. He covered it with one of the shells and said, “Can you now see it?”. “No” replied Juanita. “But you are sure it is there under the shell even though you can’t see it?”, asked Carlos. “Yes”, she answered promptly.

Carlos placed the other two shells cup side down next to the shell with the pebble and began shuffling the shells around. “This is just a shell game” thought Juanita as she watched the shell with the pebble move around in a random pattern. Carlos stopped and asked, “Do you know where the pebble is now, Juanita?” “Of course”, she replied, “It is here under this one!”. Juanita put her finger on one of the shells. “No Juanita, you are wrong”, Carlos told her. With this, Juanita turned over the shell to find that the pebble was not there. “Then it is this one”, said Juanita as she turned over one of the remaining shells. In great frustration Juanita turned over the third shell, still no pebble. “But…”, Juanita was interrupted by Carlos who said “When you search for happiness you will never find it, Juanita. Try looking in your shirt pocket”.

Juanita put her hand in her shirt pocket and pulled out the pebble and began to laugh. Carlos explained, “You see, happiness was with you all along”.

7:41 AM – Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Fire
Every morning Carlos wakes with his sun and starts a fire made from the driftwood he had gathered the night before. The beach is a safe place for a blind man to build a fire. For as long as Carlos can remember he has used the same tin to make his morning coffee. The ground coffee beans that Carlos uses are given to him by Mr. Martinez at the market who saves the spillage from the grinder. Carlos fills the tin with fountain water until he can feel the water on his thumb which is wrapped around the brim. Then, measuring with the palm of his hand, he adds the grinds. Carlos has learned how to drink the coffee but not the grinds.

On this morning Carlos was sitting with his coffee when he heard men approaching quickly. At the risk of mixing sand with his coffee grinds, Carlos set his cup down and stood with his staff. He could hear the men panting and talking among themselves. Carlos felt there were five of them. “Old Man!” one of them shouted, “What are you doing here on the beach this early in the morning?!”. “I am Carlos”, he replied calmly “I live here”. “Well you will not live here much longer” another said angrily, “We have just done a terrible thing and you have seen it!”. “I have seen nothing”, Carlos told them, “In my entire life I have seen nothing, I am blind”.

“You are a liar! We do not trust you!” said the first man. Carlos responded gently, “Perhaps it is yourselves that you do not trust and that is why you do not trust me”. “Enough!” declared another “We must kill him and be on our way quickly”, the others agreed.

Carlos stood steadfast with his staff in the sand standing vertically. Suddenly the sand all around him burst into flames. The men screamed as their hair and clothing began to burn off of them. Bald and naked, they fled the beach. The police were already investigating the earlier disturbance and caught the five men as they ran in hysteria.

Of course no one believed the men when they told of the sand catching on fire and their clothes and hair burning off of them. How could it be true when none of them had the slightest burn on them?

5:54 AM – Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Purpose
As Carlos sat on the bench near the shops his little friend Ratona came to him with concern on her face. Carlos knew instantly that there was trouble in her voice when she said hello to him. “What is wrong Ratona?” he asked her. “I am afraid that I caused my brother to have a bad fall”, she said. “We were playing on the hill and I stopped to look at a beautiful flower. Just then he turned to see what I was looking at and fell over a rock and tumbled down the hill where we were playing. If I hadn’t been looking at the flower he would not have fallen.” “Do you believe that you should not stop and look at a beautiful flower?”, Carlos asked, “Or if he tripped on the rock for some other reason, could you have saved him from falling?”. “Well no Carlos, but if I hadn’t stopped to look at the flower he would not have fallen, so I caused him to fall!” with this Ratona began to cry. “It was Julius’s clumsiness and lack of attention that caused him to fall, Ratona.” Carlos explained, “If anything you should be proud for teaching him a valuable lesson. What if he were crossing a street and it was a car instead of a hill?”

“I see, Carlos” she said as she began to see the value in what had happened, “But I’m so confused with the big purpose of things. How am I to know when something is bad or good?” “Here is a lesson for you, learn it and it will serve you well”, Carlos told her in his deep soft voice, “Always hold goodness in your heart and let it guide you through life. There is a great purpose but to know the end would affect the journey. For each person, animal, insect, or flower, every second that passes causes change. It is far too complicated to understand so we must live in the now with goodness. This way our affects on life’s journey will always be to the positive. Likewise, learn from the past but do not dwell on it for it will consume you. It can’t be changed, it was a lesson. As for the future, it is fine to be hopeful, for things are always changing, but remember the turning point of that change is always now.”

Ratona sat with Carlos for a moment in silence. This was a lot for a girl of eight years to understand. A cool breeze began to blow from the sea. “The weather is changing, Carlos. It is getting cooler” she said. “I should go now and make sure Julius has his poncho.” Carlos smiled.

7:48 AM – Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Clown
Carlos slowly approached The Montage Library as he did every Sunday morning. Here they have a computer that connects to the whole world. It is a special computer that speaks and listens so that a blind man like Carlos can reach out to friends everywhere. Miss Carla, the librarian is a wonderful and helpful person and looks forward to spending time with Carlos every Sunday. But Carlos stops short of the library when Nicola comes running up to him crying for help. “What is the matter, Nicola”, Carlos asks. “It is that horrible man” sobs Nicola pointing behind her. “I can not see, sweetheart” Carlos reminds her, “Who is he? What did he do?”. “He is a clown! He frightens me, Carlos”, she replied. “Oh, a clown. But clowns are for fun why are you frightened?” asks Carlos. “He talked to me and he has a big smile painted on his face!!” she said in between sobs, “I can’t see who he really is, if he’s really happy or really mean”.

“Nicola, clowns aren’t any different than anyone else”, Carlos began, but was interrupted by an emphatic Nicola, “YES THEY ARE!! You are blind and don’t know!”. “I see far more than you realize, little one” Carlos resumes “Everyone has a clown face and a real face, an inner self that they don’t want others to see. There is evil in the hearts of all people. It is always present and held back by the good. The evil is stronger in some than others. Those people have the evil holding back the good.” Nicola was listening now. “The clown face is what people want others to see of them.” Carlos continued, “When someone is overtaken by evil he needs a clown face to conceal his true thoughts so that he can trick others. The thing that scares you about a clown is knowing that his face isn’t who he really is. This should be a comfort to you as you know he is not trying to fool you. You must never lose sight of the beast within us all.”

Nicola was stunned by Carlos’s words. This did not make her feel any better. No, in fact now she was even more unsettled. “Carlos, can I trust you?” she asked. “Yes you can.” he replied sweetly, “But you must not. You must never really trust anyone.” After another long pause Nicola said, “I have to go now, Carlos, my Mother is waiting”. “Alright, little one,” replied Carlos, “I’m going to go meet this clown.”

9:42 AM – Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Realization
As Carlos got closer to the man who had upset little Nicola so much, a strange feeling came over him; a foreboding the likes of which he hadn’t felt for a very long time. “Hi there!!” cheered out the clown to Carlos. “I am Carlos”, said Carlos in his usual calm tone. The clown reached out and took Carlos’s right hand and began to shake it. The touch sent Carlos reeling. In that instant he saw intense flashes of light in yellows and reds as he stumbled backwards. “Oh, I’m so sorry sir!” said the Clown, “I see I startled you! My apologies! You are blind, how careless of me.” Now that Carlos was no longer touching him he spoke, “Yes…you startled me”.

“Welcome to the ground breaking of the Hacienda Esmeralda”, the clown went into his routine. “I am Lobo The Clown. And I’m here to announce that we are tearing down these ragged old shacks to make way for a grand new hotel. It will bring jobs and lots of fun to the poor people of Montage.” “This makes no sense to Carlos” replied Carlos, “there is no one here that would stay at such a hotel”. “Trust me, old one” responded Lobo enthusiastically, “the Hacienda Esmeralda will bring people from far and wide to this little beach, and with them will come prosperity to the people of Montage”. “And what of the owners of these shops you are tearing down to make way for your hotel?”, asked Carlos. “As it turns out, they didn’t own the shacks or the property that they were using. But we have taken care of these people though, they were all given money and jobs! You see, it is already starting!”

“Yes”, understood Carlos “It is starting”.

9:24 PM – Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Repercussion
Again Carlos set his direction to the Library for there is great importance in his keeping in touch with the world outside of Montage. Carlos was startled by his name being shouted by an angrily approaching Mrs. Sanchez. “Carlos!!”, she screamed at him, “Have you lost all sense of right and wrong?! You have scared my little Nicola half to death with your warnings! How dare you tell her that everyone is evil and can’t be trusted!!” “But I was only…” Carlos started. But Mrs. Sanchez was not listening, “No more words from you!! You are a doddering old fool!! You should be kept away from our children and I will tell everyone in Montage how you have frightened little Nicola while she was only trying to enjoy the clown!”. “But Momma, that’s not…” Carlos realized that Nicola was there too with her Mother but, again, Mrs. Sanchez was not listening. “Carlos está loco en la cabeza!” she told her, “You and your brothers are forbidden to talk to him ever again or you’ll be punished!”

With this Mrs. Sanchez left dragging little Nicola behind her. Carlos stood for a full minute thinking of the situation. He knew that he had done the right thing by warning Nicola and that she understood his message even if her Mother did not. Carlos could only hope that the seed he had planted would grow and spread to the other children and people of Montage. With this, Carlos continued his effort to reach the Library.

8:54 AM – Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Message
Visibly shaken by the morning’s events, Carlos entered the Library. Instead of Miss Carla’s usual cheerful greeting, she exclaimed “My goodness Carlos, what’s wrong? You look as though you had seen a ghost!”. “If Carlos had sight, perhaps I would have.” was Carlos’s reply. “I woke with my steadfast sea and beach and sun but now I realize there is trouble in the air…great trouble..” Carlos trailed off almost talking to himself. “But I need not worry you with such matters, Miss Carla. May we get started?” “Yes” she replied happily, putting her concerns aside. She led him to his terminal and told him, “I’ll get you in and you can take it from there”.

Miss Carla quickly clicked her way to the internet location where Carlos posts his weekly blogs. “Would you like me to check your messages?” she asked. “Yes please” Carlos answered. “There is only one this week, it is from a gentleman named Mensajero. He says ‘Carlos, You have been right all these years and I should not have doubted you. Be aware, it will be soon.’ but that is all he says. Would you like to reply?” Miss Carla asked. “No, I think there is no reply needed. I would rather get started on my blog now.” “Ok Carlos, everything’s all set.”

As Carlos felt the little bumps of the library’s Braille keyboard, Miss Carla left him to his privacy. This week his post was short, “My Dear friends everywhere, If ever you wanted to come to Montage, now would be a good time. Look for Carlos on the beach and you will find me.”

7:04 AM – Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Market
Thoughtfully Carlos made his way out of the library. Miss Carla opened the door for him as he left. “Take care, Carlos” she said, “I have to find a new place to buy my morning coffee now that Mr. Martinez has been forced to close his market to make way for the new hotel.” “I understand, Miss Carla, Carlos had no coffee this morning either” said Carlos as he continued down the street, “Goodbye, Miss Carla”. Miss Carla turned in the opposite direction and walked past the site for the Hacienda Esmeralda.

The debris from the old shops was being dumped into a large bin by two noisy backhoes. Directing them was a thin muscular man with long black hair in a ponytail. He shouted at Miss Carla, “Hey there Hot Stuff!” Miss Carla continued walking past hoping that she could just ignore him. “Come on Honey, you don’t have to be like that!” he said running up to her. “You’re about the prettiest thing I’ve seen since I got to this little nowhere town!”.. Miss Carla turned and looked at him. His eyes were sharp and darting and his smile made her uncomfortable. “I’m JuanPedro”, he said, “Pleased to make your acquaintance, what’s your name?” “I’m sorry, I’m in a hurry” was all she said continuing away without a pause.

There is little shop that sells fishing supplies a few blocks further down the street. Miss Carla was thinking that they might sell coffee there. She had never had the occasion to go to the store called “La Tienda del Cebo”. As she entered she was instantly aware of an overpowering musty smell. An elderly man asked cheerily, “Can I help you Miss?” “I was hoping you sold coffee here,” she said. “Nope! But I always have a pot on.” he said happily, “Have a seat and I’ll pour you a cup.”

Sadly Carlos passed the children as he entered the beach. He had decided it best that he avoid talking to them for a few days. His love for them was too great to involve them with his problems. On this day the children were not running up to him either. Word travels quickly in Montage.

8:16 AM – Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Questions
Little Juan’s Mother came into his room before naptime. Juan, sitting up in his bed, asked “Have you known Carlos a long time Mamma?” “Yes, Little Juan, all my life, why do you ask?” replied his mother. “Is he crazy?” asked Little Juan. “No, Sweet One” she said, “He’s very old, that is all.” “How old is Carlos Mamma?” the questions continued. “No one really knows because he is the oldest person in Montage. Your Grandmother remembers him from when she was a little girl and he was an old man then, but no one knows how old. He was Grandmother’s friend her whole life. Carlos came to see her in the hospital every day before she passed away. Carlos told her that he wished his magic could help her but there were some things that he could not do.”

“Is Carlos’ magic real?” asked Little Juan. “Most people don’t think so”, she said, “But there are those who have seen him do unbelievable things, impossible things, and I think Carlos’ magic IS real.” Little Juan’s face changed, looking like he was going to cry. “People are saying Carlos is bad and that he is crazy and that I shouldn’t talk to him! Can I still talk to him Mamma? He’s my friend.” “Of course you can Darling.” She said sweetly. “Carlos IS our friend and he is not bad. Now lay down and take your nap.”

After spending ten minutes sipping coffee with the old gentleman at “La Tienda del Cebo”, Miss Carla took the long way back to the library to avoid the construction site. The sound of the backhoes and crunching wood could be heard all over town. Miss Carla unlocked the library door but inside her once quiet library was now anything but quiet.

On the beach, Carlos sat in meditation, in his mind he was floating with the waves, thinking of the past and worrying about the future.

6:44 AM – Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Donation
“Good afternoon, Padre! What brings you to La Tienda del Cebo?” asked Pepe, the tackle shop owner. “It is a glorious day, Pepe! GLORIOUS! I just received a wonderful donation to the church from the owner of the new Hacienda Esmeralda. It is substantial! It came in the mail from Mexico. I have a really good feeling about this man. Hernando is his name, very active in the church, I assume. Wonderful man!” “That’s great news, Padre. The church has been in need for a long time.” said Pepe, ” I’m not so sure about this hacienda, though. It just doesn’t seem right. These people aren’t like us.” “Pepe, you mustn’t judge others so quickly”, assured Padre, ” just because they are from a different place. Have faith.”

“And you still haven’t told me why you are here, what can I do for you?” asked Pepe. “I’m going fishing for a few days! Off with the robe! I’ve decided to take a few days off and just enjoy life. But I have no fishing gear. You need to set me up with the best you’ve got.” exclaimed Padre. To which Pepe responded, “Well it looks like a good day for me too then.”

While Pepe began whistling and picking things off of the shelves, Padre’s mind started to wander to something that had troubled him earlier in the day. Carlos had not attended the morning service. If there was one person that Padre could ALWAYS depend on seeing in the pews it was Carlos and there had been an unsettling vacuity in the church without him.

6:18 AM – Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Appearance
At the age of 63, Inspector Rodriguez is the lone member of the GN (Guardia Nacional) who oversees the law in Montage. In most cases he is policeman, judge, and jury because in most cases that is all Montage needs. His headquarters consists of a two room cinder block building, the front is his office with a desk, telephone, file cabinets and a TV, and the back is the jail to hold offenders for a day or two or long enough for his superiors to come and relocate them to a national prison and an actual trial. It has been a long time since he has even spoken to any of his superiors and, other than a bi-monthly check or occasional memorandum, even heard from them. In Montage, he is the law and has been for thirty-eight years.

The Inspector was awakened from his morning nap by the jingle of the front door opening. “Are you the Inspector?” asked JuanPedro. “That’s right, Inspector Rodriguez.”, he said collecting himself and turning down the television with the remote, “And you’re.” “JuanPedro, I’m the foreman of the new Hacienda Esmeralda. We’re a little concerned about the safety of all our supplies and equipment on the site and wonder if you’d like to pick up a little extra work.” “Oh no,” replied The Inspector, “I’ve got more work than I can handle already.” “Yes, I could see that,” said JuanPedro, “look, I’ll make it worth your while.I’ll pay you twice what you’re making and all you have to do is peek in on the site a few times every night. You’re all alone here right?” “Why yes,” he started, “I hardly.” “Well maybe you could hire someone to help.” JuanPedro interrupted, “We’ll fund the whole thing.” “Well actually my brother-in-law needs.” again The Inspector started and again was interrupted, “Great, well give it some thought and come by later and we’ll give you some cash to get you started. I gotta get back.” With this JuanPedro gave a wave and left.

Padre sat peacefully by the stream with his bare feet dangling in the water. His bobbin held fast as it rode the gentle currents. “Any luck?” asked Carlos. Adrenaline slammed Padre’s body as he realized that Carlos was suddenly sitting next to him. “God have mercy, Carlos!” he exclaimed, heart racing, “Where did you come from?!” “It is so beautiful here today,” said Carlos in his deep soothing voice. “We should savor every moment as they are surely numbered.” Padre started to calm down a little and turned to watch the ripples of the current. “Why do you say that Carlos? I was just day dreaming about how wonderful things are going to be. The church will finally get a new roof and carpets and there will be more people coming to Montage and the congregation will grow and.” Padre turned to Carlos and realized he was talking to himself.

7:11 AM – Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Cart
“It’s smooth and metal.” “That’s right, Carlos, it’s all stainless steel!” replied Mr. Martinez, “I spent every dollar I had on the down payment. It was either that or find a job somewhere.” “It is a glorious machine.” Said Carlos “it will serve you well.” “Thank you, Carlos, would you like my first cup of coffee? I’m sorry if doesn’t taste quite right. I’m still learning how all this works. And here’s a sweet roll to go with it.” “Bless you.” Thanked Carlos as he walked away with the first food he had had in days.

The cart was positioned just outside the alleyway between the Montage Library and the Hotel site. Mr. Martinez had run his market there for many years, now there was even more reason to be there. Hungry workers need food and his cart was full of sandwiches, tortillas, cakes, candy, soda, hot dogs, sausages and, with the ingredients he had planned out, he could make tacos and burritos. A few minutes after the morning bell sounded, Mr. Martinez was overwhelmed with business and any fears of failing quickly faded.

“Looks like your cart is a great success.” Said JuanPedro after his men had all left and he and Mr. Martinez were alone. “I don’t suppose you have a license for this cart?” “I’ve never needed a license before, I’ve done business here for decades.” Replied Mr. Martinez. “Well if you’re going to be making money from selling food to my men, you’re going to have to pay me half of what you make every day. And don’t think you’ll ever get a license while I’m around.” JuanPedro turned and approached the Inspector who was waiting to speak to him. Carlos, still sipping his coffee, sat in anger a block away on the other side of the Library.

6:50 AM – Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Tiles
JuanPedro stood with his hands on his hips admiring the tile work in the lobby of the Hotel Esmeralda. “Get that canvas rolled out over this floor.” He yelled to the workers, “Each one of these tiles costs more than you make in a day.” The tiles had been shipped in from Brazil the week before and were handmade, emerald green with gold inlays. The tile men were experts flown in from Argentina. After a celebration of sangria and fine food the tile men had boarded a train to the airport. Now it was time for the painters to paint the walls and ceiling of the 30 ft high lobby. Scaffolding lined the enormous room ready for tomorrow’s efforts. “As soon as you get that canvas out I want that scaffolding loaded with paint for tomorrow” he called out. “I don’t want the painters wasting their time climbing up and down these scaffolds. I want to see two of these five gallon buckets on every level.. AND DON’T DROP ANYTHING ON THIS FLOOR OR YOU’RE DEAD MEAT!!!

Carlos sat cross legged on the beach in the sun. Cassandra came to him. “Carlos, look what my Grandmother gave me. She said it was hand carved by the Pipil Indians over five hundred years ago. Do you think it’s really that old?” Carlos held the figurine and knew instantly that it was genuine. “Yes, Cassandra, it is real. This wood is very very old and it has been carved by crude chisels. I was friends with the Pipil tribe, you know. I helped them fight the Spanish when they invaded these lands.” “Oh Carlos, I know you’re old but not that old!” giggled Cassandra. Carlos drifted back to the lobby where he could hear JuanPedro’s voice speaking blocks away. “When Hernando sees what a wonderful job I’ve done building this hotel, he’s going to make me manager. Then that stuck up little bitch librarian will pay attention to me.” “Carlos!!” shouted Cassandra as the figurine snapped in pieces, “Oh no! You’ve broken it!” Carlos refocused on what he had done and covered the figurine with his hands. “It’s only a trick, Sweetheart, see the figurine is fine.” Carlos handed the unbroken carving back to Cassandra who was in tears, “That was a bad trick!” cried Cassandra as she took the figurine and left him.

Later Carlos was still on the beach but, in his mind, he was standing in the lobby of the Hotel Esmeralda. The workers had all gone and JuanPedro was standing in the middle of the room admiring it and thinking about how proud Hernando was going to be of him. Slowly, quietly, the screws that held the scaffolding together began to rotate counter clockwise. A moment later JuanPedro was dodging the crashing metal scaffolding and paint cans as they chipped the perfect new floor and soaked the canvas with gallons upon gallons of paint. JuanPedro was furious as he wiped the paint from his face, hair, and clothes. “Idiots!!!!!!!” he screamed. “The floor is ruined!!! We’ll never open in time now!! What am I going to do?!! Hernando will be here in a week for the opening!!!! I’ll never meet the deadline now!!!!” But no one could hear him.except Carlos who sat smiling in the sun.

10:21 PM – Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Postponement
“Your incompetence has cost me and everyone else a great inconvenience, JuanPedro.” Over JuanPedro’s cell phone, Hernando’s voice sounded calm but stern. Though it was coming from a little speaker it was anything but small. It was a wonder that the phone even worked so far from the nearest cell tower. Every time JuanPedro used it passers by stopped to admire the amazing device. For this reason JuanPedro was standing in the alley between the Library and the hotel. “When are the tile men due back?” asked Hernando. “Tomorrow morning.” Answered JuanPedro. “That will do. You have a lot of preparation to get done by morning, you will work all night. And one more thing JuanPedro. You will call all 72 people that you have inconvenienced by this and apologize to them and assure them that the Hacienda Esmeralda will open next Sunday. And JuanPedro.it better.” Before JuanPedro could say “It will, Sir” the phone was dead.

“Willard, this is morning”, said Carlos “a time of rebirth, a new day. Why is the darkness of night always so evident in you?” Carlos sat on the bench where Willard had spent the night sleeping off his Saturday drinking. “Leave me alone Carlos, can’t you see I’m resting?” slurred Willard groggily. “This is not rest, my son. Carlos can see you continue to relive the death of your family. You must stop blaming yourself for a fire that you did not cause.” “Go away old man!” grumbled Willard, his head pounding, “You are no better than I am. You sleep on the beach, I sleep on a bench. You drink wine, I drink tequila. What’s the difference?” “The difference is what’s in our hearts. Carlos has faith and you do not.” Said Carlos gently. “Faith!” cried Willard, “FAITH?!! In what? In GOD? A God that would take my wife and daughter from me while I am away, struggling to earn enough money for food?” “I don’t believe God takes people usually.” Shared Carlos. “Carlos thinks that God creates life and allows it to live free, to grow as it goes, and meet it’s own destiny by way of it’s own circumstances. How else could life evolve?” “Don’t tell me that, old man. God can do anything and he could have saved them!” sobbed Willard. “Perhaps, Willard,” Carlos added, “but he can not save everyone in peril. What would life be with no death?”

Carlos stood from the bench and turned to Willard. “You are in control of your own destiny, my son. You may choose to start over or drown in your own self-pity.” With his staff in his right hand, Carlos continued on his way to the Library. JuanPedro was too preoccupied with his problems to notice Carlos as he emerged from the alley, but Carlos knew he was there.

6:10 AM – Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Grand Opening
Lobo The Clown burst into the Library shouting, “Come One Come All!! It is the grandest of days, the opening of the great Hacienda Esmeralda!!!! Come on kids!! Free balloons and prizes! And.” Miss Carla had jumped to her feet and grabbed Lobo by the arm, pulling him aside. “This is a library, you callous idiot!” she whispered angrily, “These people are here to read and learn not run off to your.” by now the children had converged on the scene and were surrounding Lobo and Miss Carla. “I’m so sorry” whispered Lobo staying in clown form, “I had no idea this was a library! Please forgive Lobo,” The children began to giggle and even Miss Carla had to smile a little. “When you’re all done here come and see Lobo next door and I’ll give you each a big balloon, Ok?” With this Lobo tipped his hat to Miss Carla and tromped out with his big clown feet.

The Esmeralda was a-buzz with hundreds of people. Most were strangers to Montage and staying at the hotel. Mr. Martinez was giving food away outside the hotel as fast as he could make it. The hotel had funded the cart for the entire day. JuanPedro was nowhere to be found. He had been working on the last touches of the hotel right up until the doors opened. It was presumed that he had gone home for a long rest after barely sleeping for a week.

Applause broke out as the emerald green limousine pulled into the curved drive at the front of the hotel. Hernando stepped out as people cheered his arrival. He was thin, about 5′ 7″, and dressed in black pants and gold sparkly vest with a ruffled shirt. His jet black hair shined and was parted in the middle. As he smiled, a gold tooth glistened under his thin little mustache shaved right down to the very top of his upper lip. Gracefully he walked through the foyer as the room became quiet. “Welcome to the Hacienda Esmeralda!”, he spoke, “We are all here to enjoy ourselves. Let’s see to it that we do. This is the beginning of a new era in Montage. Great days are ahead for all of us. Let the festivities BEGIN!” With this the crowd broke into applause as Hernando walked across the beautiful tile floor and up the marble stairs to the upper levels.

Carlos hadn’t been to church in weeks nor did he pay his usual Sunday visit to Miss Carla. And with all the excitement of the day, the absence of Carlos went mostly unnoticed.

7:05 AM – Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Swimming Pool
Sadly Carlos walked up the boardwalk remembering the days when the children would flock to him where ever he went. Now, as he made his way to the library, he could sense that people were becoming quiet as he passed. Conversations stopped in mid-sentence until he was thought to be out of earshot. But Carlos knew exactly what was going on in Montage, for his perception was far clearer than anyone could imagine. He could hear Nicola, who was half a block away, telling her older sister that Lobo had grabbed her and tried to pull her aside to talk to her. In panic she had pulled away from him and fled. Her older sister, Juanita, didn’t believe her because she was far too familiar with Nicola’s fear of clowns.

As JuanPedro was heading up the library steps he was stopped by Hernando’s voice. “There you are JuanPedro. You can go visit your girlfriend some other time. I need to talk to you about the new project.” “Of course, Sir” replied JuanPedro. Hernando continued, “We need to secure a large perimeter behind the hacienda. I want an area 1500ft square surrounded by a plywood fence 8ft tall. We’ll be starting the wall, say, 200ft from the back of the building.” “This is a very big area, Hernando.” Thought JuanPedro aloud “What are we building?” “A swimming pool.” Replied Hernando. “With all due respect, Sir, that’s a very large piece of ground for a pool” JuanPedro commented. “Are you questioning my judgment?” asked Hernando. “If you don’t think you can handle this I’ll replace you with someone who will.”

As the two engaged in conversation on the library steps, Carlos quietly passed them. “You’ll never find what you’re looking for.” Hernando heard Carlos say. “What was that, old man?” Hernando asked Carlos. “I said nothing, Sir.” Replied Carlos continuing to the door. “You heard him JuanPedro.” Hernando looked for verification. Afraid to speak in disagreement, JuanPedro slowly shook his head “No”.

7:10 AM – Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Statue
Santos helped Ferdinand lift yet another sheet of plywood for the seemingly endless wall surrounding the site for the new pool. “Hey, I didn’t know there was a little park back here” Ferdinand said as he reached in his nail bag and began hammering nails into the sheet. “Yes, it’s been here for a very long time. No one comes out here. It’s too far away from everything. It’s no wonder, there isn’t even a path to get to it.” Replied Santos who grew up not far from Montage. “Let’s take a break and check it out” suggested Ferdinand. The park was really just a clearing in the woods with an old dilapidated statue in the middle of it. Weeds and brush had grown up all around it. The two men sat down on one of three stone benches that surrounded the statue.

“So who the hell is this?” asked Ferdinand pointing his thumb to the statue. “Oh, that’s Alvarado, Pedro de Alvarado.the bastard” replied Santos. “And he is.?” puzzled Ferdinand. “Come on man, don’t you know your history? He’s the guy who claimed El Salvador for Spain! Slaughtered the Indians, tore the place up looking for riches and when all he found was crap he moved on somewhere else. Why they put his statue here is beyond me. Nobody wants to hang out with that dude.”

The conversation was interrupted by voices approaching, “See I told you there was a park back here” said the man to young Juanita. Startled by the presence of Santos and Ferdinand, Benny let go of Juanita’s hand. “Oh, ah, Hi.” Benny trailed off and then said “We were just going for a walk to see the park.” “Lobo said there was a park here but I didn’t believe him.” Said Juanita. “Lobo?” said Santos confused. “Yeah, Benny’s Lobo The Clown. He looks pretty different without his costume.” Pointed out Ferdinand.

“I have to go now. Bye bye Lobo. You were right about the park!” she said leaving the three men in the park as she turned and skipped back down the long wall that lead to the main street. Carlos relaxed on the beach satisfied that Juanita was safe.

5:54 PM – Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Tummy Ache
Hernando approached Santos and Ferdinand as they worked. “Gentlemen”, started Hernando. Realizing who was there to talk to them, the two men scrambled to gain composure. “Last week you talked to Benny during your work break, is that correct?” “Yes Sir,” replied Santos defensively “but we had been working for hours and it was time for.”. “I’m not here to talk to you about your break, Gentlemen,” interrupted Hernando, “I’m here to talk to you about Benny. You two were the last one’s to see him before he took ill. I take it you men are feeling well as you’re still working but how was Benny when you talked to him?” “He was fine.” Answered Ferdinand, “We haven’t seen him all week though. He’s been sick?” “Yes, very sick. Just after you saw him he started vomiting and his temperature shot up to 104. He collapsed on the street and was rushed to the infirmary. For two days the doctor tried to get his fever down and couldn’t. Then his fever dropped and red rashes appeared all over him. The doctor recognized the symptoms and rushed him into quarantine at San Salvador General. It’s now confirmed that he’s got variola major smallpox. This is the first case in El Salvador for nearly thirty years.

Smallpox is something I studied as a little pet project when I was younger. I know a lot about it. In the seventies there was a campaign to vaccinate everyone in the country, in fact the world, for it. What’s puzzling me is that Benny was vaccinated. His case is hemorrhagic smallpox and is so severe that he’s not expected to live more than another day or two. It is an agonizing death. There’s nothing that can be done.” The three men stood for a moment in silence, then Hernando said, “You men are doing a fine job here, thanks for your time.” “Anytime Sir” replied the men.

“Carlos?” started Ratona. Carlos, who had been sitting calmly on the bench outside of the library was a little surprised to have one of the children speak to him. “Ratona,” Answered Carlos, “I haven’t spoken to you in some time.” “I’ve come to say goodbye Carlos” she said sadly “My family and I are moving today to San Salvador. I’ll come back and visit you, I promise.” As Ratona hugged Carlos he said softly, “Carlos’ time is running short. I will not be here when you return, but I will be with you always. It is good that you are leaving Montage, my child. You have lived a paradise that few will ever experience, but things are changing here. If you return it will not be as you remember. Hold these memories dearest to your heart.” “I will Carlos, I promise. I wanted to say goodbye to Lobo too, have you seen him?” Carlos gave Ratona’s hand a little squeeze and said “I’m afraid you’ll miss saying goodbye to Lobo, Sweetheart. He’s got a little tummy ache.”

8:05 AM – Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Hole
“The inspector was asking about you yesterday.” Mr. Martinez told Carlos as he handed him a cup of coffee. “He arrested Willard, you know”. “Why would he arrest poor Willard?” asked Carlos as he sipped his hot drink. “Public intoxication he called it, but I know what it’s really about.” Mr. Martinez leaned towards Carlos and spoke quietly. “Hernando is paying him to get the bums off the street. He doesn’t think it looks good for the Hacienda. You better watch yourself Carlos he doesn’t like you hanging around either.”

“This just doesn’t make any sense, JuanPedro” Santos complained, “How deep is this swimming pool going to be anyway, twenty feet, thirty feet?” “Just do as you’re told!” barked JuanPedro “If you don’t want to work then get out!” Fearing for his job Santos dropped the matter but couldn’t understand the size and depth of this hole. Where were the blueprints, he wondered. This is no pool.

As Carlos was leaving the cart Padre approached looking very solemn. “Carlos,” He said, “where have you been my friend?” “I have gone nowhere, Padre,” replied Carlos, “where have you been?” “Oh sad business, Carlos” said Padre “I just came from Benny’s service, tragic thing that.” “Yes, tragic” agreed Mr. Martinez.

“Carlos, I haven’t seen you in Church for many weeks,.” noted Padre “I’ve been worried about you.afraid you’d lost your faith.” “Yes I’ve been worrying about you too, Padre” with this Carlos walked off towards the library, staff in one hand, coffee in the other. “I wonder what he meant by that?” pondered Padre.

6:56 AM – Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Sunglasses
“Carlos,” started Miss Carla, “I have a present for you.” “A present for Carlos?” smiled Carlos as he sat with her at the Library computer. “Yes, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you’re looking terrible lately. I’m afraid you are frightening the children. I bought you a nice pair of sunglasses to wear.” Carlos held the dark plastic glasses as he thought. “Sunglasses.yes that is a good idea, Miss Carla. Thank you so much for thinking of me.” “I know you can’t see yourself and have no way of knowing. Please accept these with my affection.” Carlos put on the glasses knowing that she had the best of intentions. “You look so handsome now!” giggled Miss Carla.

In his cell, Willard was rocking back and forth on his bunk. “How long are you going to keep me here?” he asked the Inspector. “As long as I want” said Inspector Rodriguez. “This is a town matter. I can hold you till I feel you’re ready go.” “This isn’t right! You’re treating me like a criminal!!” cried Willard “I need a drink!” “You need to sober up.” Was the Inspector’s final comment on the subject as he went back to watching his morning talk show.

Carlos was aware that his sun wasn’t as bright on his face as he walked down the Library steps. His new sunglasses were the first joy he had felt in a long time. JuanPedro stood by Mr. Martinez’s cart watching Carlos as he left the Library. “Good” he thought “she will be coming out soon to get her morning coffee.”

5:45 AM – Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Stone
Carlos stood on the beach listening to Pepino’s mother scold him, “Pepino get out of the water! You’re too young to be in the waves without your brother or sister with you!” “I’m almost five,” he talked back, “I’m old enough to swim!” “That’s it,” she shouted, “Papa’s going to hear about this when we get home!” “No Mama, don’t tell Papa, I’ll never go in the water again, I promise!” Carlos knew this was a promise that Pepino wouldn’t keep.

“Coffee, black, two sugars, right Miss Carla?” Mr. Martinez said as he reached for a cup. “I’ll have the same” said JuanPedro, “and here’s for both.” Before Miss Carla could protest JuanPedro was already paying for her coffee. “Look, I don’t think.” started Miss Carla but was interrupted by JuanPedro with, “It’s on me, Miss Carla.” Miss Carla was thinking she wished it was, though her expression was enough. “Missy, you got me all wrong. I’m a nice guy once you get to know me. How about we spend a little time together and I’ll show you.” “I don’t think so.” she said curtly, “thanks for the coffee.” Miss Carla headed back to the Library and JuanPedro, disappointed once again, went back down the alley to the pit.

As he approached the pit he heard the machinery stop. Hernando was climbing down into the pit without a care for his green leisure suit. “What is that?!” He shouted, “Don’t move! What is that?!” All the workers stopped as Hernando scurried through the dirt to pick up a stone. “What is it?” JuanPedro shouted down to Hernando. “It’s.it’s.an old cuff link. No big deal.” Hernando put the stone in his pocket and began climbing out of the pit.

The Inspector approached Carlos as he stood on the beach. “Carlos,” he said “I’m afraid you’re going to have to come with me back to the station.” “Why?” asked Carlos. “I’m going to have to detain you for a week or two.” Replied Inspector Rodriguez “Detain me? You are arresting me? Carlos? What are the charges?” asked Carlos. “Carlos, I’m sorry, but I have to bring you in for vagrancy.” With his head held high Carlos walked off the beach and down the street with the Inspector.

5:23 AM – Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Choice
Willard watched Carlos sitting on his cell bunk. Carlos was breathing heavily as his head went back and forth like he was following a slow motion tennis match. The expression on his face was gravely serious as he followed two events developing simultaneously. Willard had given up trying to talk to him.

On the beach Pepino had already broken his promise. He had sneaked out early to play there before his family had gotten up. Already they were looking for him. Miss Carla was just arriving to open the Library. Montage was still and sullen with only the sound of the gulls and the waves breaking on the shore. The ocean lay in awaits for little Pepino and JuanPedro was waiting for Miss Carla. Pepino heard Carlos telling him “No Pepino, remember your promise” but his desire for the sea was greater than his word. Carlos knew that Miss Carla was already on edge at the thought that it was early and she was alone but just the same he put the word “hurry” in her mind.

A small crowd had gathered on the beach but no one was brave enough to swim so far out to save Pepino. He had gotten past the waves and was drifting out into the endless Pacific. “What can we do, Carlos?” one the children asked Carlos who was standing behind the crowd. “Run and get my tarp, Juanita. It’s there where I sleep.” Without hesitation Juanita ran for his tarp. Carlos began to motion with his hands for Pepino to come back to the shore. “GET YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF OF ME YOU ANIMAL!!!!” Carlos heard Miss Carla’s scream pound in his head. Pepino was getting closer to the shore but the undertow was fighting Carlos as he gingerly drew him in. Juanita arrived as fast as she could with Carlos’ tarp. Pepino was finally close enough for some of the older children to splash out to get him. No one saw Carlos spin his tarp over his head like a matador and vanish under it.

Carlos was now at the street side of the dimly lit alley between the Library and the Hacienda. Miss Carla’s lifeless body fell from JuanPedro’s grasp. JuanPedro, startled by Carlos’ unexpected presence, turned to him dropping his bloody stiletto to the pavement. “You have killed Miss Carla.” Carlos choked out the words too overwhelmed to say anything more. “You didn’t see anything, Old Man!” replied JuanPedro with defiance. Carlos began to fill with rage. “Who cares? She was worthless and you are just a crazy old bum.” Continued JuanPedro, “No one will ever belie.” Suddenly JuanPedro felt a great pressure on his chest. “You have taken your last breath.. JuanPedro ” he heard Carlos’ voice booming in his head. “You have taken something precious from Carlos and now Carlos will take from you.” The capillaries in Carlos’ eyes began to burst as he squeezed his right fist tighter, cracking JuanPedro’s ribs. The pressure on his chest was forcing his insides out at top and bottom. Then, with the flick of his wrist and the opening of his fist, JuanPedro’s body splatted against the emerald green wall of the Hacienda Esmeralda.

Carlos was instantly with Miss Carla holding her and sobbing. “You were the one truth in my life.” He spoke softly as he wept, “And I have failed you. Life on Earth is so fragile, and like a match asunder it always consumes itself in the end. Let the spirit that is you know no bounds. Sleep now my sweet one, for we will be together again soon.”

“Oh my God!” said Inspector Rodriguez answering the disturbance call. Sickened by his discovery, he stood fast at the entrance to the alley. “What has happened here?. Oh my God. Carlos.” Eternal moments passed as he looked in disbelief. Finally, after he had regained enough composure to enter the gruesome scene, he walked over to Carlos and put his handcuffs on him. “Carlos Mysterioso, you are under arrest for the murders of Miss Carla and JuanPedro.”

5:50 AM – Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Chief Inspector
Chief Inspector Warrez paced back and forth in Inspector Rodriguez’s station getting more irritated by the minute. “Now let me get this straight,” he reviewed in frustration, “You put the handcuffs on “nobody” and they just fell to the ground?!” “No Sir.” Explained Inspector Rodriguez for the umpteenth time, “I put them on Carlos. Then he just disappeared. That’s when they fell on the ground.” “Do expect me to write that in the report?” Warrez shouted, “He disappeared?!! You arrested a man who was already in your jail?. And then he disappeared?!!!! Willard here says he never left the cell!! How do explain that, Rodriguez??!!!! There are people outside your station waiting to lynch this poor old man for something he couldn’t have done, people who swear they saw him on the beach at the time of the murders, he couldn’t possibly have done whatever was done to that foreman, his fingerprints aren’t on the knife. why are these men in jail in the first place?!!! You’re an incompetent! You’ve been sitting on you fat ass for forty years in this little town where the biggest emergency you’ve ever seen was that your goddamn TV was on the blink, and the first piece of real police work comes along and you fall apart!! And it doesn’t stop there Rodriguez. I know you’ve been moonlighting for this “Hernando”. I looked into him, he’s bad news. You’ve got a serious conflict of interests going on. I’m taking over here ’til this double murder blows over. You are hereby suspended of duty pending a psychological evaluation.”

Hernando pointed to the wall of the pit that went towards the area behind the Library. “I want you to start here,” he told the miners, “just get started and I’ll tell you when to stop, and men, if you see any precious metals come and get me immediately”. After Hernando left, the miners started talking among themselves as they prepared to create the mine shaft. “This guy must have a screw loose” one miner said. “What’s he looking for here? This is El Salvador!” “If he wasn’t paying so well I would never have taken this job in the first place.” Another said. Santos and Fernando were now working for the miners. As they carried railroad ties across the pit they spoke. “I saw him as they put him in the ambulance, Santos. He was shaped like a barbell, all squeezed in in the middle and bulging at the ends. What could do that to a man?”, asked Fernando. “It must have been some kind of machinery,” replied Santos, “anyway, good riddance. I hated that jerk. But Miss Carla.that was a tragedy. Everyone loved Miss Carla.” “Do you think Carlos killed them?” asked Fernando. “No way he killed Miss Carla! That was JuanPedro’s stiletto she was killed with. And if JuanPedro did it, I don’t care if he WAS in jail at the time, Carlos might explain what happened to JuanPedro.”

At the station, Carlos had visitors. It was Pepino, and his Mother, and Juanita. “I’m Chief Inspector Warrez,” the inspector told Pepino’s Mother, “If you want to see Carlos it will have to be through the bars. You can’t go in with him, he may be dangerous.” “That will be ok.” She said. “It is Pepino that needs to see him.” When Pepino saw Carlos he shouted his name and ran to the cell. Carlos turned slowly to face him as Pepino reached desperately through the bars as far as his little arms could reach. “I’m sorry, Carlos. I’m sorry I broke my promise” he said. “Thank you for saving me.” Juanita couldn’t be silent any longer, “Carlos couldn’t have killed Miss Carla and JuanPedro!” she told Warrez, “He was with me on the beach he saved Pepino from drowning!” Pepino’s Mother spoke up saying, “Pepino nearly drowned last Sunday. He was being swept out to sea . He swears that Carlos spoke to him and told him to relax and then pulled him back to shore.” “He did, he did!” shouted Pepino, almost in tears. “He should not be in jail.” added Juanita, “He is a hero!” Warrez, who was thinking the whole town was going mad said, “Ok, I’ve heard enough for one morning, everybody has to go now.”

Carlos sat on his bunk where he had been for the past week. He no longer cared what was going on in Montage. He hadn’t spoken a word, changed his clothes or eaten. His spirit was broken. Chief Inspector Warrez unlocked the cell door. “You’re free to go Willard” announced Warrez. “I can’t leave Carlos, thanks just the same,” he replied, “can I stay?” “Yeah, ok, .I’m worried about him too.” Said Warrez. “But I’m letting you out. I gotta go out for a while. Keep an eye on him.hey, maybe you could sweep up a little around here.”

5:39 AM – Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Thanks
It began with a simple cup coffee personally delivered by Mr. Martinez. Once the first perfect hot drink hit his system, something started back up again in Carlos. After over a week of silence, Carlos spoke his first words, “Thank you”. Though this was all he said for the next few days, he was saying it more frequently as his visitors brought him food and love. Pepino’s Mother brought him cookies, and others came him soup and bread. The people of Montage had sorted out their feelings about the murders via heated arguments and a few fist fights, but in the end everyone agreed that Carlos was not to blame. Willard had embarked on a new life. He had a job at the station and had sworn off drinking. Caring for Carlos had helped him see the other side of his own tragedy and the healing had begun. Mere days after the Chief Inspector had taken over the station, he had released Carlos on his own recognizance and at once offered the cell to both he and Willard until they felt up to moving on. With Rodriguez no longer embezzling the station’s prisoner funds for himself, there was ample money for food and even clothing for Willard and Carlos.

On three or four occasions Hernando had been called down to the mine to examine small gold nuggets that had been spotted. The miners had been ordered to turn westward. This would put them under the Library. In spite of their warnings, Hernando demanded that they proceed but working only when the Library was closed. The new Librarian was unaware that the banging sounds he occasionally heard were anything more than the ventilation system.

Pepe had overcome his reluctance with the people at the Hacienda Esmeralda, in fact he had developed a gambling addiction there. He was now hopelessly in debt to the Hacienda. Two of Hernando’s bodyguards showed up at his house and threatened to kill him if he couldn’t pay off his debt. After begging for mercy, the men suggested that his teenage daughter, Cheena, could work off his debt by working “upstairs”. Pepe knelt on the floor weeping as they took away his only daughter. Carlos felt a nudge as he fought to pull himself out of the morass of self-despair that was swirling around him.

6:18 AM – Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Eyes
The door to the station burst open and a very upset Padre walked in trying to say three things at once. “Calm down, Padre.” Willard told him, “Take a deep breath and try again” “Where’s the Chief Inspector?” demanded Padre. “I must speak with him at once!” “He’s out making calls.” Answered Willard. “He’ll be back in an hour or so. What’s wrong Padre?” “I’ll tell you what’s wrong! Something terrible is going on at that.that.Hacienda! Cheena has an important role in the Christmas Mass and when she missed rehearsal twice this week and didn’t even show up for church this morning I went out to her house to see what was wrong. OH MY GOD! I’ve got to talk to the Chief Inspector!!”

Carlos stood at the open cell door listening as Willard assured Padre that he would send the Chief Inspector over to the church as soon as he returned. “Cheena is safe, for now” Carlos told Willard after Padre had left. “There are others, too, just like her. But nothing will happen until Madam Rosetta arrives.” “How do you know this, Carlos? How can you possibly know this?!” asked Willard. “I listen” said Carlos. Carlos removed his sunglasses for a moment to rub his face. Willard stepped back at the sight of Carlos’ eyes. It wasn’t just that they were horribly bloodshot beyond belief, but that they seemed to undulate and he couldn’t focus on them.

After talking to Willard and Padre, Chief Inspector Warrez arrived at The Hacienda Esmeralda to confront Hernando. He was escorted to the pit where Hernando was arguing loudly with the supervisor of the mining team. “Goddamnit! Don’t tell me, I’ll tell you! If you don’t.” Hernando stopped abruptly when he saw Warrez. “Chief Inspector.” Hernando said with a smile. “What a nice surprise.” “Cut the crap, Hernando.” Snapped the Chief Inspector. “I want to know exactly what’s going on upstairs in this hotel of yours. And where’s Pepe’s daughter Cheena?” “Cheena.oh yes, Cheena! She has been hired to the housekeeping staff. Why do you ask? Has she done something wrong?” asked Hernando innocently “Has she done.has she.” The Chief Inspector stammered. “Listen here you worthless scumbag, I know exactly what’s going on up there and I want to see that child NOW!!”

Cheena slowly walked down the stairs to the landing where Chief Inspector Warrez was waiting. “Hernando said you wanted to see me.” Said Cheena quietly. “Are you ok Miss?” asked the Inspector. “Oh yes, I’m fine.” she replied. Her speech was slow and her eyes looked groggy. “They’re treating me very nicely here. They’re nice.” “Would you like to go home?” asked Warrez. “Oh no,” she said dreamily, “I’m learning how to be a maid. I can’t go. I’m fine. They’re nice.” “Look Cheena, I’m gonna go now. But I’ll be back to check on you real soon.” Chief Inspector Warrez turned and headed for the door. Downstairs by one of the blackjack tables Hernando pulled Rodriguez aside. “That Warrez is sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. Follow him and make sure he doesn’t come back here.ever.”

5:17 AM – Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Belief
A week has passed since Rodriguez had feebly attempted to run Warrez off the road with his car. He had only accomplished losing control of his own vehicle and smashing it in the rocks along the road from the Hacienda. The flames had been so bad that Warrez decided to just let them burn out on their own. The tension was building in Montage as everyone now knew about the brothel that was developing there. Warrez was working on getting a search warrant and back up from San Salvador but the progress was painfully slow. Members of the town were starting to take matters into their own hands.

Padre was waiting for Hernando as he emerged from the mines brushing dirt from his mint green leisure suit. Hernando had just diverted the miners for the seventh time, this time to the east. He was frustrated by their lack of success. “I would have words with you, sir.” Demanded Padre, rolling his small chained crucifix in his hand. Hernando looked nervously at the gold cross and replied “What’s on your mind, Padre?” “You have deceived me and my church!” he accused angrily. “You are not the gentleman you made yourself out to be. You are holding members of my congregation against their will. Minors!” Padre pointed a sharp finger at Hernando releasing the cross. “I demand to see Cheena and the others at onc.” Padre’s words were choked off by an invisible grip around his neck. Hernando’s eyes were darting angrily as he spoke between his clinched teeth, “It is time for you to go now, Padre. Leave and don’t come back.” Hernando walked away leaving Padre gasping for air. “Mother of God.” he muttered, scrambling off.

“I need to speak to those girls at the Esmeralda” Carlos told Willard. “Are you crazy? Do you think they are going to let you just walk in there?” asked Willard. “I believe I can talk to them.” Carlos said. “Well, the reality of the situation is that you CAN’T.” quipped Willard. Carlos drew in a long breath as he took Willard’s hand saying “The power of belief is stronger than reality.”

Cheena found herself holding Carlos’ cold calloused hand in the upstairs room of The Hacienda Esmeralda. “Carlos!” she exclaimed, the others quickly gathering around them. “Where, how did you?” Carlos spoke softly to them, “You trust old Carlos don’t you?” “Yes, of course” they all said. “Then have faith that you will all be safe. The time has not yet come. You must stay here a few days longer, but NO ONE, NOTHING will harm you. I am watching over you.” The girls stood puzzled clustered in a group in the middle of the room. Carlos was gone. Back at the station, Willard was still holding Carlos’ hand, “So, what’s the big plan? What are you going to do?” asked Willard. “It’s already been done,” said Carlos opening his eyes.

Hernando called his two most trusted bouncers into his office and told them, “I have a job for you. It’s very important and dangerous. You will be taking the limo to pick up Madam Rosetta where she’s been hiding in Argentina. She has a huge shipment that needs to be brought here in time for Christmas. Take all the fire power you can carry.”

5:56 AM – Sunday, December 18, 2005

(This illustrated a break in episodes)
The End
Midnight Mass in Montage is the most sacred event of the year. It is the one time when everyone in town assembles on the boardwalk to worship the birth of Christ with Padre. The twelve foot cross is always erected and lighted so that all can see it as they stand facing the ocean. This year the scene was different though, because behind them stood the Hacienda Esmeralda, it’s bright green lights spilling onto the scene.

Through the crowd, Hernando’s limo arrived at the front entrance and a tall black woman in a flowery purple gown and large garish hat emerged. Madam Rosetta had arrived. Thinking the crowd was for her she smiled and waved as she passed through the entrance with her two escorts. Carlos worked his way down the boardwalk steps to the beach where he found his tarp in it’s usual resting place. Through the darkness, a few minutes before midnight, he appeared in the upstairs room where Cheena and the other girls were being detained. “Quickly girls” said Carlos “gather around.” Once the girls were close he spun his tarp over them and they found themselves amongst the crowd on the boardwalk. Most were with their families, though Cheena and one other were standing in the choir with their music in their hands. The service started with “Angels We Have Heard On High”.

Hernando was furious. On what he thought would be the biggest night of the year, the Hacienda was nearly empty. Only his closest people remained. Some of his workers had even quit their jobs to attend Padre’s service. “Where are they?” asked Madam Rosetta, “There is no one in C-12.” “What!!?” shouted Hernando, “I saw them in there not twenty minutes ago! Search the hotel!” his voice echoed in the empty foyer. A quick search revealed nothing. Hernando burst out of the entrance to the Hacienda with two of his guards close behind. The huge lighted cross glared at him as he saw Cheena singing in the choir. He stood fuming, his eyes began to glow yellow in anger, his teeth clinched tightly. Suddenly Carlos was standing directly in front of him. “I have waited for centuries for this moment Cortez” said Carlos. “What did you call me?” asked Hernando, stunned. “Don’t you remember me?” asked Carlos. “You stole something very dear to me, was it so meaningless that you have forgotten?” ” Kekchala!” Hernando shouted, “You are still alive?” “I knew the gold would draw you here.” Said Carlos. “I have waited for you for five hundred and twenty years. I want back what you have taken.”

Hernando’s eyes beamed light as he reached out for Carlos’ shoulders to hold him. Carlos did the same pulling Hernando in. A bright glow appeared around both of them. The service had completely stopped in mid “Gloria” at this point and everyone was turned facing them. The two of them lifted off of the ground and began to spin in the air. Bright yellow lights beamed from their eyes surrounding them, consuming them. The Earth shook below them and lightning flashed around them. The thunder was deafening. To those on the ground, Hernando & Carlos were now a spinning blur of yellow light. The dome and flagpole of the Hacienda Esmeralda suddenly caved in crushing everyone inside. The people of Montage stood dumbfounded as they watched the entire Hacienda crumble into the giant pit that lay behind it. The spinning light vanished in a huge explosion and a skeleton came crashing down from the sky onto the boardwalk, instantly turning to dust.

Padre blessed himself saying, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”. The people of Montage echoed his words as they too crossed themselves and stood in an ominous silence.

12:00 AM – Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Resurrection
A week has past since the events of Christmas Eve. Everyone accepted the fate of the Hacienda Esmeralda as what was best. In the middle of the debris the flagpole stood erect still attached to the top of the dome.
Willard had taken Carlos’ tarp and hoisted it up to half mast as a flag in his memory. It was the beginning of a New Year and a new era. The usual fireworks display was set up. In the past, it had always been in the field where the pit was now filled with the remains of the Hacienda. So this year the display was set further back. By dusk everyone in Montage was assembled. Just before the fireworks were to begin, a glow appeared in the air above the park. As it took form everyone could see that it was a handsome young Carlos, perhaps in his twenties, dressed in white.

“My dear ones.” His voice thundered gently, “you have witnessed a great event and I am not who I have appeared to be. You have known me as Carlos but I am Kekchala, the Mayan God of the Earth’s Riches. In the early 1500s, the Mayan Gods were overwhelmed by prayers to stop the Spanish from finding the gold that was so plentiful here. The Mayans and other tribes thought that if there was no gold the Spanish would go away and leave these lands to the people who were at peace here. Hernando was relentless in his search. When the natives posed a challenge to him he used the smallpox disease to poison them by the thousands. We were sworn to protect man and could not interfere directly. I was given the task of stopping him since it was my riches that they were after. My first attempt was to influence the King of Spain, warning him that Cortez had become too powerful and would soon rival his position. I was successful at removing Cortez, but he was only replaced by another, Pedro de Alvarado, and the search and the slaughter continued. The Mayans, in desperation to preserve their culture dispersed themselves and consequently their prayers began to fade as they merged into other beliefs. The other Gods lost interest with them, but I was sworn to protect the riches of Central America and could not leave. One of the darker, more powerful Gods, who was fading, fed off of Hernando’s obsession and chose to help him by tricking me, robbing part of my omniscience and giving it to Hernando. He was without death from normal causes so his search for gold, silver, and power could continue forever. But I had already collected all the gold and hid it. Eventually his search was to end here. For over five hundred years I have been watching and waiting.”

Next to Carlos another glow appeared. It was a beautiful young woman dressed in white with long flowing hair and a halo of flowers. “It’s Miss Carla!” shouted little Juan Everyone in Montage applauded and cried as she smiled and blew them kisses. “Miss Carla is with me now.” Spoke Carlos. ” My omniscience is restored and I will share it with her for eternity. And so dear friends it is time to say…” Miss Carla pulled Carlos down and whispered in his ear. “Oh yes, of course,” he said, “The gold! It’s been here all along. Montage is the richest town in The Americas! Always use it for good and it will serve you well. Behold!” The ground behind Hernando’s rubble filled pit began to rumble. In the park the statue of de Alvarado rocked back and forth and finally flipped over backwards as tons upon tons of solid gold blistered up through the ground. The people of Montage cheered and threw their hats in the air. Nicola shouted “Carlos es el Salvador!” Padre frowned at this outburst but then smiled in mild agreement. The New Years Eve fireworks show exploded into action, flowering beautiful umbrellas of light over Carlos and Miss Carla. They waved as they rose higher and higher, fading forever away into the evening sky.

5:17 AM – Sunday, January 01, 2006


(end leaf)

WORDS BY HANGNAIL PHILLIPS
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MONIKA BULLETTE

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