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Harlemville – Excerpt

November 4, 2019

The Willie Jeep backfired loudly, billowing black smoke on every cough. A Vietnam-era throwback Winston would have loved to drive. But for Fatboy the vehicle was a disappointment. A piece of shit. A miserable hot dirt crawler under a dry rotted canvas. No shock absorbers nor air conditioning, or so he was told by Hector it had air but it acts up if the outside temperature rises above 80 degrees. 

The dry Florida air constantly seeped through the loose plastic sheets that flapped noisily along the long stretch of back roads. This is not the look of someone with money. Fatboy had envisioned a stretch limousine greeting them at Miami International Airport, instead of a safari transport. How was Cuban going to show him money when this was how he rolled? He took a sly peek at his partner for a hint of a negative reaction, since he was against the whole deal from the start.

Dee seemed to be enjoying being away from New York, and the ride to him was not as important as the scenery. All the bugs Florida had to offer, Dee admired. His hand gripped the roll bar and half his body leaned into the warm wind shear. “Those are some tall ass coconut trees,”  he shouted.

Cuban unbuttoned his lightweight, bullet-resistant Havana casual, exposing his curly gray chest hairs. “My friend, those are palm trees,” he said, switching his gaze to Fatboy. “You don’t agree with our weather?”

“Its your jalopy,” Fatboy said. “Try the air again.”

“You will feel better shortly. I made preparations custom for you.” Cuban said. “You’ll be pleased.”

The air conditioning rumbled before fluttering out a puff of hot air. Hector swerved the jeep quickly onto a partially hidden side road, past a tattered two foot high wooden picket, and a quarter mile down a sandy drive. The side road was hardly noticed, cutting right down the middle of acres of fruit groves to the left and tobacco plants on the right. “Open your eyes to the safety and security our money buys.” 

 “That your house?” Dee asked.

“My Hacienda will be three minutes in view.” Cuban answered. “We process various products in that building on the other side of the orange groves.”

“That coca, huh?” Dee replied.

“In due time, you will see.”

Fatboy rapped Dee on the leg. “Do you know the Rodriguez brothers?”

Cuban studied each face, and looked up briefly at Hector before answering the question. “Their wishes did not line up with my plans, but that was in our teenage years.” He raised his brows, and his speech became more deliberate. “He was stupid, only the little ones I feel sorry for.”

“So they are your problem then?” Fatboy asked.

“Ah gentlemen, you will have your answers. This moment we are here for relax.” He accepted a handkerchief from Fatboy to clean the dust residue off his sunglasses. “Welcome. Please, feel free to indulge in my perks. And do not worry, you are safe here,” he said, leading with his eyes beyond the groves. He smiled as Fatboy made his way the additional ten feet toward an industrial fan whose breeze offered the best comfort in the sweltering heat.                                      

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