NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Wednesday December 1st 2021

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RETURNING CHAPTER 14: THE BASEMENT BUSINESS

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

We usually expect a basement to be dank, cold and dimly lit. Not so for the one that our dear family found themselves in. It was brighter than day, with banks upon banks of fluorescent lights. There was a humming about the place: from above, from behind a steel door, it even seemed to emanate from within the walls. And even though it was inside, and there were space heaters blazing, it felt terribly cold.

The woman who had been Cindy Keefe, onetime friend and now enemy of Luz, told them to sit down on some metal folding chairs. The chairs had once been painted with bright colors and words like “Harmony” and “Paz,”, but they were now graffitied over with garish images and words. Angelito sat next to his father, and whispered, “I don’t like this place, papi.” Angel squeezed his son’s hand slightly and whispered, “I know.”

From a door that seemed to appear out of nowhere, a man stepped out. He was dressed in a black long sleeved shirt, black jeans and a silver tie. He had a fedora that was too small for his head, titled at what he thought was a jaunty angle. Angel thought he looked like a bad imitation of a suave gangster from the movies. Luz knew he was trouble.

He smiled—if you could call the sneer on his face a smile—at Cindy Keefe, and said:

“I see you’ve succeeded.”

Then he threw her a small bag, and she disappeared through another door.

“So, we meet again, sweet Luz,” he said, the same sneer dripping from his mouth. “And I see you’ve brought your lovely family. Aren’t you going to introduce me?”

Luz hated this man who had violated her as a young girl, but she did not want him to see that she was afraid of him. She shivered just a bit, but spoke clearly:

“This is my husband Angel, and my son Angelito. Now, where is my daughter?”

The man laughed.

“So you married an angel, and gave birth to another one! Ha! Not what I expected from a hot little devil like you were in high school.”

Angel couldn’t help himself. He knew he shouldn’t lose his cool, but he stood up and got in the man’s face. Luz tried to hold him back, but Angel was not having it.

“Where is our daughter?” he yelled.

“Easy, cowboy,” the man sneered. “All in good time. Your lovely wife and I have some unfinished business to attend to.”

Luz stood next to Angel, and pulled him back.

“Cálmate, mi amor,” she said. “Cuidado con este hombre, su mal no tiene fin.”

“What did you say, my little Señorita?” the man laughed.

“Nothing,” Luz said. “I told him to take it easy, that it will be OK.”

“Of course it will, muchacho,” the man said to Angel. “ Let’s all sit down and work this out like proper citizens.”

He pulled up a chair, and sat down. Angel and Luz did as well.

“I think we got off on the wrong foot,” the man said.

“Who are you?” Angel asked.

“You don’t know?” he laughed. “You didn’t tell him, Luz? I’m Brian Fleming, entrepreneur. Luz knew me in my wilder days, but now I run this high tech business here. I’ll give you a little tour in a bit. We’re employing Somali refugees and vets and making a real name for ourselves.”

Angel knew he couldn’t trust the man, but he knew he didn’t have a choice but to listen.

What Angel also didn’t know is that his son, not yet five years old, had pulled out his dad’s phone from his pocket while they were travelling through the tunnel. His parents and his teachers at pre-K had taught him how to call 911. He kept the phone in an inside pocket of his winter coat, wondering when he should make the call.

To be continued…

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