Chapter 33

This entry is part 34 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Thirty-Three — Keeping A Promise

Two days later we were back in Managua. We stopped at the cantina by the brewery. Just as we were seated and had ordered our cold beer, little Tiny came skipping out and jumped up on Rosita’s lap, giving her a big hug. Rosita kissed her happily. It was probably the first time they had ever been parted even for one night, and now Rosita had returned and everything was fine.

Ricky said, “Why don’t you make Rosita your number two wife? She is beautiful, little Tiny likes you very much, and it is time for little Tiny to have a father.”

I know my face got red. “Ricky,” I said, “I do not have a number one wife and I do not intend to get married — that is, not at the present time.”

Chase spoke up. “Señor Joe. What Ricky tells you is true. Rosita is a wonderful woman and she deserves a good husband and so does little Tiny. Don’t you think she should have a good father?”

These guys certainly had a way of putting on the pressure when it came to helping me.

“How many wives do you have, Chase?” I was trying to embarrass him a bit.

“None,” Chase said, “but I wish I had a nice wife and daughter like Rosita and Tiny!”

I decided then it was time for the party to break up. So I said, “I wish to thank all of you for a good time. We must go now. I have to phone my brother in the United States.”

I told Ricky I would ask Bill about the tractor, that we would probably make him some sort of a deal. Chuck, Jock and I would go on to town and spend the evening. We said goodnight, climbed in the truck and drove uptown.

As Chuck parked in the lot, I suggested, “Let’s walk up to Fermin’s and have a drink. I’ll buy a bottle of Flor de Caña.” They thought it was a swell idea.

It was getting along toward evening and what breeze there was had little coolness in it. Fermin seated us at a table on the sidewalk, brought out a bottle and some dainty little sandwiches. I invited him to sit down and join us. We told him about the celebration at Talpaneca and he seemed to enjoy the story and said he wished he could have been there.

We were the only customers at Fermin’s at that time and it was relaxing to be enjoying a few drinks with men I called friends. Women are wonderful of course, yet there are times when men like to be together and forget all about women.

We sat there a long time talking about mining, politics, the weather — things in general.

We were just about ready for our third bottle when someone paused by our table. We looked up and saw the girl smiling at Chuck. She was really a cute one. Chuck blushed and jumped to his feet. “Fellows,” he said, “meet Argentina.” We stood up. Argentina smiled again and said in broken English, “You are friends of Chuck?”

We nodded.

“Chuck is very handsome, no?” We nodded again. Now, she had an arm around his neck.

Fermin brought another table and seated Chuck and Argentina and Chuck ordered a Flor de Caña and sandwiches.

Argentina was really attractive. She was tall and slender with plenty of curves, and she had big dark brown eyes and long dark eyelashes, and that beautiful “sun tan” complexion seen so often in this country. Her hair was blue-black and wound in a knot on top of her head. She wore a comb in her hair that looked like real diamonds. The old goat Chuck was sure getting around.

An hour later we had a lively party going. Fermin, Jock, and I were getting real buddy-buddy. Chuck was in excellent voice; his singing carried all over the place. He was bragging to Argentina, making himself out quite a fellow, and saying, “There was a big fight. The man came at me with a knife. He almost got me!” He displayed the scar where the old Señora of El Fuerte had wounded him. Then he doubled up his fist shaking it under Argentina’s nose. “I hit him and how!” Then came his dramatic moment. He reached down and pulled out his watch-fob. There were the teeth of Cortez grinning at us. His act was great, but a little spooky.

With one ear I was listening to him tell Argentina of our adventures in Mexico and with the other I was listening to Fermin who was getting a little “high.”

Fermin was saying, “I have lost most of my English speaking business to a place up the street. Tonight my place should be packed; but no, the fellow up the street has a beautiful Señorita who can speak both Spanish and English!” Fermin looked sad, “My girl here speaks both languages but she is very homely and does nothing to keep the people here.”

Chuck was saying, ” . . . so that afternoon we arrived at Veracruz. . . .” I sat up and listened, “. . . The water in the Gulf of Mexico was very muddy and there were many boats-fishing boats. . . .”

“If only I could get a beautiful Señorita who could speak both Spanish and English,” Fermin was saying, “then I would get back many of my customers. . . .”

Without thinking, I stood up. Something inside me was trying to put things together and suddenly I remembered what it was. “Juanita!” I had almost forgotten her. She had said, “I have prayed that you would come.” I had promised that someday soon I would get her out of that prison. I started pacing back and forth on the sidewalk, thinking of that day in Veracruz.

She had begged, “Take me with you, Joe. Take me to the United States.”

“I am not going to the United States. I am going to Nicaragua.”

“Then take me to Nicaragua.”

A beady sweat was breaking out on my forehead. I sat down in the nearest chair, my mind in a whirl and, could hear her saying, “My name is Murphy, I think. My father was a fisherman from the United States. . . .”

I had made a promise. This promise I must keep, or at least try to keep it.

“Fermin,” I said, “I know a girl. She lives in Mexico and her name is Juanita Murphy. Her father and I were great friends,” I lied. “He was a fisherman at Veracruz. Many years ago her mother passed away, leaving only Juanita and her father. Last year he was out on a fishing job, a bad storm came up and the boat was sunk and all were drowned except one fellow who managed to survive. He brought back word of the tragedy. I stopped at Veracruz on the way down this time and Juanita said she would like to come to Nicaragua. She now has a job working in a restaurant. Maybe if she had the promise of a good job here I might be able to persuade her to work for you. She is very beautiful, with blue eyes and golden hair and she’s a real lady. She speaks both Spanish and English.”

Before I was scarcely through talking, Fermin was saying, “We have a nice room for her to stay in and her meals will cost her nothing. I cannot pay her a big salary, but if she is an experienced waitress, she will make many tips.”

I ordered another bottle and started looking through my wallet praying that I had not lost that address. Yes, here it was — Dick Domonick, Passports, Visas, Mexico City . . .Phone. . . .

Jock had been listening to the whole thing; his eyes growing bigger and rounder. Apparently I had painted a vivid picture of Juanita.

“Can I do something to help” he asked, a little too eagerly.

“No, I must make a phone call and I’ll see you in the morning.” I went over to the hotel, ran up to my room and picked up the phone. “Give me Tropical Radio, please.”

As I lay back on the bed waiting for the connection, I thought to myself, Joe Parker, for once in your life you are doing something magnanimous. That beautiful girl will spend the rest of her life in that hole if you don’t get her out. Besides, I had made her a promise. Maybe I’d had one drink too many but I had started something and it meant too much to several people for me to back out now. Mexico had been kind to me and my companions. We had come through this country like a bunch of bandits trying to get Mexico’s gold at about half price. Mexico has her laws and we were not abiding by them. We were trying to cheat the government and the Mexican people. Yes, we had been the real bandits. My share of the profit on the one gold brick had been almost two thousand dollars. As I lay there thinking of Cortez and Pedro lying in the road I shivered. Had we killed? We had made a terrible mistake. The money really belongs to Mexico. Well, now I would start putting some of it back.

“Your party is on the line,” said the operator. “Go ahead please.”

“Hello, hello!” It was the familiar voice of Dick Domonick on the other end of the wire.

“Hello Dick, this is Joe Parker, remember? You got our visas for Central America. We were the men with the camper, the Sport King. Do you remember us?”

“Oh sure, I remember. How was your trip to Managua? I hope everything is all right.”

“Everything is okay,” I told him. “Now I have another job for you, so listen carefully, then tell me whether or not you can do it for me. In Veracruz there is a girl, her name is Juanita Murphy. She would like to come to Managua. I promised her I would send for her. She has no money and probably doesn’t have a birth certificate, but she needs a passport and visa to get here. I know this is a bit irregular but can you help me?”

There was silence for a minute. Then he said what I expected he would. “Señor Joe, for a price I can do anything, but it will cost much money.”

“I know. I didn’t expect to get the job done for nothing. But how much money?” The damn robber would charge me as much as he thought he could get by with — of this I was sure. Before he could answer, I said, “Listen, you bandit, I’m running low on cash, so take it easy.”

“I would have to make a trip to Veracruz. I would have many expenses for there are people I must pay. Maybe for five hundred American dollars I could get the job done.”

“Maybe, hell!” I said. “I have to know for sure!”

“For seven hundred I am certain it can be done.”

“Okay, you’ve made yourself a deal. Now listen. Tomorrow, you go to the Bank of America and pick up the cashier’s check made out to you. Five hundred of it will be yours when you put the girl on the airplane for Nicaragua. With the other two hundred you will buy her ticket and give her the change for food. When she arrives here, I will send you another two hundred. I am trusting you with seven hundred dollars, so I guess you can trust me for the other two.”

He laughed. “Señor Joe, the job is as good as done.”

“One last word,” I said. “If you let me down, I’m going to come up there and, (I did some quick thinking) kick your teeth out and wear them for a watch-fob.”

“Have no fear,” he laughed. “I will send Juanita Murphy, but now I must know where do I find her?”

“You will find her — she works — well darn it Dick, you will find her at the whorehouse — that big one with the high wall around it. There is a policeman at the gate.”

He chuckled, “You must like this girl very much, no?”

“Yes, Joe, she is a very fine little lady, so treat her as such. No fresh business now.”

I hung up and leaned back. For once in my life I was doing something real big for somebody and a feeling of satisfaction swept over me. And, I don’t think it was all caused by rum either.

I went to the bank the next morning and transferred seven hundred dollars to the Bank of America in Mexico City. When I found Chuck I told him what I had done and he grinned. “She’s a doll all right. Can’t say as I blame you.”

“And listen Chuck, listen carefully. When she comes to town she is coming as a lady. The story is to be that her father was a good friend of mine and was drowned at sea. She is a friend of the family. If word leaks out about where she comes from, it can start from only one person and that’s you.” I shook my fist under his nose, “One word, and I’ll be wearing your teeth for a watch-fob.”

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