Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: Volume 1: Chapter 04

Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: “The Mexican, The Lawyer, And The Mechanic.”

Volume 1: “The Heroes.”

Chapter 04: “One Night In Caracas, Venezuela.” (Or, “The Key To Laguna Negra.”)

By Paul Cousins.

Copyright Disclaimer: All copyrighted places, characters, items, and events, within the story, are held by their current owners. No profit is being made on this work of fiction.

(_)

Reality, Unknown. Location, Unknown. Somewhere in South America. Date, sometime in October, Nineteen Ninety-One. Time, the early morning, around eighty thirty AM, local time.

It was a warm, sunny morning, as Pedro and Matthew found themselves in other place and time. With Pedro holding his reality device, in his hands.

The two men took a look around to see they were standing on the winding street, that twisted and turned, along with them being surrounded by buildings, that varied greatly in painted colors. Though, most of the buildings either some shade of brown, or some shade of white. Each building was a couple of stories high. Power and other lines were strung from building to building, in bundles that could best get described as gordian knots.

There was no uniformity to the streets, buildings, nor electrical lines around the buildings, and over the streets.

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he asked, in english, “I know this is South America. You said that is where we were heading to. But, where on the continent are we?”

Pedro pocketed his reality device, as he turned to Matthew. He stated, in english, “We are suppose to be in Caracas, Venezuela. The City of Eternal Spring. But, I guess my aim was a little off and we are in the slums, surrounding the city.”

Matthew said, with concern in his tone of voice, “Just don't let it become a habit for you. And are we in danger in these slums?”

Pedro answered, “No more than back on my island. Just stick with me and your fine.”

Matthew replied, “Okay. So, what is the date?

Pedro stated, “The date is sometime in the early nineteen nineties, before the communists parties that later formed in few years, and took control of the nation. At this point, this is not a bad time to visit this city. Still, given it is warm year around, here. It can be hard to tell what season it is, right now.”

Matthew inquired, “And how long will it take us to get to Caracas proper.”

Pedro answered, “About an hour. Most of the slums are on hillsides. And from what I see on the street, we are on flat ground. So, we are not that deep into the slums.”

Matthew responded, “Okay. And just to let you know. I am getting a little tired. I am good for another three or four hours.”

Pedro said, “When we get to the city, I will find a decent hotel for us to get some rest in.”

Matthew questioned, “That works for me. So, which way do we go?”

Pedro look up, between the buildings. And while he was not able to see the sun itself, he was able to see in which direction the brightness of the sun was in the sky, and the way the shadows cast on the buildings.

Pedro looked back towards Matthew, as he stated, “Well, I am guessing that it is morning. Because that is the time I wanted us to come here. From the angle of the sun, right now. And that I can see some of the slums on the hills, through a break in the buildings behind us, down the street. We should go this way.”

Pedro turned, and started walking, in a direction, down the street. Matthew followed right behind him.

For the next ten minutes, they walked down the twisted street. The saw only a few people as they walked. All of whom left the two of them alone.

A few minutes later, they came to a clearing. They came to a stop, about ten feet into the clearing, when they saw someone in the distance.

The person was a tanned skin girl wearing casual shirt, pants, and shoes. While they could not see the girl's face. They could see the girl had tanned skin, and loose, long green hair that whipped around her, as she danced and did flips.

Matthew walked up to stand beside Pedro, to Pedro's right.

Matthew quietly suggested, “Let's got as they girl. To confirm where we are. And what the exact date is.”

Pedro softly replied, “Good idea. But, we need to do so, carefully. We will keep our distance, and stop three meters from her. Also, let me do the talking.”

Matthew thought, 'Considering I am still not that good at spanish, I really don't have a choice.' He said, “Okay.”

The two men then started walking towards the girl.

As they got closer, they saw that, in age, the girl was not even a teenager. At most she was ten or eleven. Maybe twelve, at the most.

When they both came within ten feet of the girl, they both halted their approach.

A few seconds later, the girl noticed the two men. She immediately stopped doing some cartwheels, with her landed on her feet, as she looked over at Pedro and Matthew.

As they got a look at the girl's face, both men saw the girl also had green eyes.

Pedro saw she was about to turn, and likely run away from them. He thought, 'I need to get her to stay, for a moment.'

Pedro stated said, in spanish, “Hello. We are just two travelers looking for directions. We do not mean you harm.”

The girl relaxed her demeanor, as she stated, in spanish, with slight sarcasm in her tone of voice, “Do I look like a travel agent agent, to you?”

Pedro said, “All we need are two questions answered.”

The girl flatly inquired, “Fine. What are they?”

Pedro asked, “We are in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela?”

The girl replied, “Yes.”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he stated, in english, “We are where I thought we are.”

Matthew looked at Pedro, as he said, “Good. Now, ask her what the date is.”

Pedro replied, “Good idea.”

Both men looked at back at the girl, as Pedro inquired, in spanish, “What is the date, today?”

The girl answered, in spanish, “It is Saturday, October, nineteenth, nineteen ninety-one.”

Pedro replied, in spanish, “Thank you.” He thought, 'That is exactly seven months from the date we last left. I wonder the significance of nineteenth, nineteen ninety-one would be.... Out course. Nine, nine, nine, nine. Three nines. And also three ones. Still, I need to let Matthew know what date it is.'

Pedro then turn Matthew, as he said, in english, “It is October, nineteenth, nineteen ninety-one. A Saturday.”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he thought, 'So, we are seven months in the future, from the last date we were at. Though, we don't have a clear what reality we are in.' He turned to look at the girl, then back to Pedro. He continued his thoughts, 'Though, that is a conversation for later. Outside of the ears of others.'

Matthew commented, “Okay. So, we are seven months ahead of where we were. We know now when, where, and what place.”

Pedro said, “Exactly. And this is not a bad time to be in the city. The next coup is not for several months.”

Matthew asked, “What do you mean, another coup?”

Pedro answered, “During this time, coup occasionally happen in this part of the world. And well, the coup could have already happened, given that events here seen to happen sooner than the same events what I am from.”

Matthew said, “Yea. I have found that nothing is truly parallel in this crazy traveling. There are always a skew of dates and events.”

Pedro agreed, “That is entirely possible. Either way, as long as we are careful, we will be fine.”

Matthew replied, “That is nice to know.”

Meanwhile, the girl in front of them, silently listened to the two men, as she thought, 'While I am still learning english, I am not sure what these two are talking about. They mention dates, but in ways I am not sure. I think it best it I just humor them, until I can leave. And if they try anything, they are going to be in for a nasty surprise.'

Pedro then took a closer look at the girl's face, as he thought, “Could she be? That would mean that the last jump was only time travel.' He asked, in spanish, “Excuse me girl.
But, what is your name?”

The girl answered, “Fabiola.” She mentally added, 'I am not giving these men my family name.'

Matthew overheard the girl, as he turned to look at her. With her name, he looked at her, as he immediately recognized her. He thought, 'I don't need a translator to figure out what Pedro just asked. This is the Fabiola we know, when she was young girl. Though, we dare not mention we recognize her. Also, I guess we did not even leave the Black Lagoon anime reality. We just traveled a little further forward in time of this reality.'

Pedro thought, 'Yep. It is her. She is likely practicing, and copying, the capoeira moves that she saw someone else do in the slums performs. At least, that is how she stated she learned her capoerira moves, in Roberta's Blood Trail. And from what little we just saw, she already getting pretty good with those moved.'

'Also, this means we never left the Black Lagoon reality. And this Fabiola will grow up to be the women from this reality, whom we personally know. As such, this might be a good chance to help get us in her good graces.'

Pedro said, in spanish, “Thank you, Fabiola. And here is something for you help.”

Pedro used his right hand to reach into a pocket, and pulled out a rolled of U.S. twenty dollar bills. He looked down, as he used his left hand to pulled out five bills.

As he pocket the rest of the roll of twenty dollar bills, he thought, 'I would give Fabiola a gold coins. But, these are the slums. And gold would attract the wrong attention towards her. Instead, I will give her some cash, which I am sure she will be able to use with ease.'

Pedro held out his left hand, as he offered, “Here.”

Fabiola saw the cash, and she quickly took a few steps closer to Pedro and Matthew. She then all but snatched the money from Pedro's left hand. Next, she quickly took several steps back. She came to a stop, at where she had been standing.

Fabiola looked down at the money her in hands. She then looked back up at Pedro, while she pocketed the cash. She said, “Thank you.” She thought, 'A hundred dollars. My family will be so happy to see this money. And it was so easy to get. Still, I need to be wary of strangers. Though, these two clearly don't want to hurt me. They just want answers to their questions. Even though they could have ask anyone for those answers... I guess it was just my lucky day.'

Just then, towards Fabiola' left side, in the distance, Pedro, Matthew, and Fabiola, heard a male voice say, “Fabiola.”

All three of them turned to see an older boy, whom was about thirty feet away from them. The boy had tanned skin and the same shade of short green hair that Fabiola had. Those the boy's green hair was cut short, to his neckline. Also, the boy appear to be in his late teens.

The boy said, in spanish, “Fabiola, mom wants to see you.”

Fabiola answered, “Coming, Rico.”

Fabiola turned to the two men, as she said one of the few terms she knew in english, “Thank you.”

Fabiola turned back towards her older brother, as she ran to join her brother.

As the two siblings walked away, Matthew turned to Pedro, as he inquired, in english, “So, how did we end up here, at this time and place? While still in the Black Lagoon reality?”

Pedro looked at Matthew, as he admitted, in english, “Because I wasn't thinking very clearly when I used the device. I thought of Caracas, the date, and time of day, I wanted to go to. But, I only vaguely thought of being in a modern times. And I did not even think of the reality, so we just ended up time traveling a few months forward in the future of this reality we are in. I guess reality travel is harder than it looks. Or, read.”

Matthew commented, “No harm. No fowl. Just be more mindful, the next time we jump.”

Pedro replied, “I will.”

Matthew turned to look the way Fabiola and the older boy, when. With the two children already disappearing into the winding streets of the slums. He turned back to Pedro, as he commented, “By the way, that boy, that Fabiola went off with. She called him, Rico. And he does look like Rico from the series.”

Pedro raised his right eyebrow in interest, as he agreed, “Yes. He did.”

Matthew said, “So, Fabiola and Rico are sister and brother.”

Pedro agreed, “It makes sense. The hair color and spanish origins should have tipped us off. I mean, how many green haired people do you know with that skin complexion? Also, Fabiola did say she had siblings. Tex-Mex is clearly a fan of Venezuela. And the drug angle, with the Church of Violence, or Ripoff Church, works as well.”

Matthew asked, “What drug angle?”

Pedro stated, “The Ripoff Church. Rico could have acted as their liaison for Yolanda and Eda's suppliers in South America. Specifically, here in Venezuela, Columbia, and the surrounding nations.”

Matthew said, “I can go along with that.”

Pedro commented, “It gets better. Now, that I think of it. It is possible Tex-Mex originally planned to have the Black Lagoon series to be based in the Caribbean Sea, which centuries ago was notorious for piracy. Tex-Mex may have even grow up reading tales of piracy on the high seas of the Caribbean, and he wanted to tell a more modern tale of such piracy. But, the U.S. navy and coast guard, along with organizations from other nations, have clamped down on piracy there. So, Tex-Mex had to move the series location to Thailand, where modern piracy still happens in the area.”

“Working from that theory, it is likely the main city for the original Black Lagoon series was either Caracas Venezuela, or the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. I am heavily leaning towards Santo Domingo being the location originally intended for the series because the Columbia mafia would have to much of an advantage in Caracas.”

“I will get back to that in a minute.”

“The key to realizing this is not just the Black Lagoon characters that are from Caracas, but also, the three, of the four, members of the main cast of Black Lagoon. Dutch, Benny, and Revy. Of those three, we know for a fact that Revy and Benny are from the east coast of the U.S. Revy was from New York City. And Benny is reported to be from Orlando Florida. Now, if you take a ruler on a map from the Western Hemisphere, from Orlando Florida, U.S., to Caracas Venezuela, you hit the Dominican Republic between the two.”

“And there is more.”

“Revy is from New York City. Benny is from Florida. Now, Dutch is reported to have a military background of some sort, and he his not only the captain, he is also the main pilot and mechanic for the PT Boat, Lagoon.”

“On the east coast, between New York City, and Florida, there is one location that could fit Dutch's original origin's story, and where he got the PT Boat from, and how he would know how to pilot and work on the boat. That is Charleston, South Carolina.”

“The city of Charleston has a high population of black Americans living in poverty, which could lend to Dutch being slightly greedy. But, not too much. It is home to the military academy, the Citadel, which lends to Dutch's discipline, military skills, and leadership abilities. And the PT Boat could have come from the nearby Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. Also, Dutch may have been named after the Flying Dutchman.”

“And here is the really interesting part. From character and plot standpoints, both Rock and Benny are paradoxes. Rock gets most of the focus and dialogue, while Benny is ignored. But, on the boat, Benny performs a vital service as the electronics and communications expert. While Rock's job, at best, is as the clerk and deckhand on the boat. Though elsewhere, Rock is a skilled planner, and negotiator.”

“Benny and Rock's character backgrounds have too many similarities to ignore. Both are brilliant. Both have educated backgrounds. Both are non-fighting characters. Both have cleaner personalities than the rest of the cast put together, whom live in Roanapur.”

“When the Lagoon crew are shown driving in a car, it is either Benny or Rock that driving said car. The only difference between the two, besides their nationalities, and that Benny accepts the corruption of Roanapur, while Rock does not. This is even lampshaded in episode seventeen, when Benny stated both he and Rock were exceptions to the corruption of Roanapur rubbing off on them. And Dutch pointed out to Benny, how he was wrong.”

“The fact that Benny even wears a hawaiian shirt, while Rock refuses too wear such a shirt could be an injoke by the creator of the Black Lagoon series about all very situation.”

“I seriously think that, originally, Benny was likely planned to be the main audience segregate, with the series focusing on him. He may have even been planned to end up being Revy's romantic interest. Or, a love triangle between him and Dutch trying to gain Revy's attention. With the original Black Lagoon series being planned to be a three person main cast.”

“Rock was likely added later, as the main character, as a Japanese audience segregate, for Tex-Mex's Japanese customer base. And because of this, Rock took most of Benny's lines, plot, and character development. I wonder if the actor for Benny in the Black Lagoon R magazine, whom was reported to be so upset all the time, was upset because he realized this?... That might be very likely.”

Matthew had been paying close attention to Pedro, as he commented, “I guess that is possible. Please, continue.”

Pedro responded, “Thank you. Now, here is how I figure the origins of the original Black Lagoon would have played out. It starts with Revy having been imprisoned for killing people, including cops in New York City. And if the fifth episode of Roberta's Blood Trail, Codename Paradise Status MIA, is any indication of Revy's past. She had very good reasons to snap, and go on her killing spree.”

“Anyway, the scene has Revy breaking out of prison, in New York state, with her going on the run from the law.”

“Revy eventually makes her way down to Charleston, South Carolina. During the night she is in that city, she bumps into second year cadet, whom is known as Dutch. Dutch's past is one, whom in spite of poverty and other hardships, he made it into the Citadel program. I say second year, because first year cadets are required to walk with their knees locked. Not sure why myself. But, Revy would never ask for help from someone walking like that. So, it has to be second year, because any older, and Dutch would likely know better than to help Revy at this junction in their lives.”

“Also, being a second year cadet knocks Dutch's age down to around twenty. With Revy around eighteen. And Benny being nineteen. With all three adults being young and foolish enough to try and become pirates.”

“And this situation becomes the classic nice guy meets bad girl set up. Where Dutch meets Revy, she gets him into trouble with the law and they both have to escape. And in their escape, they steal a PT Boat from the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. They then flee down the coast in the PT Boat.”

“At some point, Dutch reveals that he was named after the Flying Dutchman. And he states that he feels he is lost, with nowhere to go. Revy says she can sympathize.”

“Eventually, they have to stop and get fuel and supplies. How they get the money for this is likely theft of some sort.”

“Given Revy's reckless nature, she would like to do it in a place where they could have some fun.”

“And there is a city that would fit for the plot, themes, and direction, in which they are going.”

“Given the latin american themes of Black Lagoon, and that it is along the east coast of the U.S., they two would likely stop in St. Augustine, Florida”

“St. Augustine also known as college party town, with the oldest known Spanish Fort still standing in the U.S. Revy would probably love a chance to party there. And Dutch would probably like to do so, as well.”

“While, they had to the city, to party, they bump into Benny. With Benny being on the run from both the Florida mafia and the U.S. government. I even know what he found out.”

Matthew asked, “What did Benny find out?”

Pedro said, “I will get to that in a minute. I have to first explain the situation.”

“When Revy and Dutch meet Benny, they hit it off well. And they find out that Benny is on the run, as well. With Revy and Dutch inviting him to come with them, on their stolen PT Boat. Benny accepts their offer.”

“Given Benny's electronics, hacking, and communications skills. He was likely also an amateur ham radio operator before he went on the run. And for plot purposed, lets throw in some engineering and mechanical skills. Benny is hired as crew, to keep the boat and electronics running.”

“Benny was likely originally going to be the communications officer and engineer. While Dutch was captain and pilot. And Revy was just the crazy muscle and deckhand. Also, Revy is not even known as Two-hands, yet. Because she has not yet learned how to dual wield two pistols at once.”

“I will get, later.”

“The three Lagoon members make escape Florida and their way to Santo Domingo, of the Dominican Republic. When they reach that location, they find themselves in the middle of a secret cold war for the drug trade of the region, being fought by various mafias. With some of these mafias being sponsored by various governments.”

“The three of them probably end up getting mixed in with the various mob politics, when they search for someone to make them fake paper documents, that would allow them to stay in the Dominican Republic.”

“Now, there is something you need to know about the island of Hispaniola, which is where the Dominican Republic is located.”

“The Hispaniola island is divided into two nations. On the east side is the Dominican Republic, which is a decent nation, with fairly honest government and people. On the west said, Haiti, a real shithole, with some of the most corrupt government officials you will find in the multiverse.”

“The two nations, their populations, and governments, do not like each other. They are literally like day and night. Now, while the mafias leadership is probably based in Santo Domingo, their criminal operations are likely based in Port-Au-Prince, which is the capital of Haiti.”

“Santo Domingo is on the southeast coast of the island. Port-Au-Prince is on the western coast of the island.”

“To give you an idea of how corrupt and dangerous Port-Au-Prince is. I would rather walk naked and unarmed down the streets of Roanapur at night, than set a single foot onto Port-Au-Prince during the day, while heavily armed.”

Matthew commented, “That is bad.”

Pedro responded, “No. It is worse. Anyway, with no other options to get the fake documents, and some more money to live on, the three Lagoon crew members get roped into becoming smugglers, and eventually pirates. With the three of them being the only ones they can trust to keep each other alive.”

“Now, onto the other characters. Of the mafia groups mentioned and shown in Black Lagoon, the Russian and Chinese are the heavy hitters. But, others were shown, as well. Including, the Mexican and Colombian cartels. Along with the Italian and Florida mafias. There is the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. FARC for short. The group Roberta was a member of. Balalaika even mentioned that Roberta and others were trained in Cuba.”

“If you dropped the Triad and the Russian mafias, and you draw lines on map between the of mafia factions shown in the Black Lagoon series, you start crisscrossing the Dominic Republic real quick.”

“Let us start with a locals in the area, Roberta. Originally, Roberta and Balalaika were probably two halves of a composite character. Now, that is a scary thought. Though, I believe in personality differences, Balalaika patience and pragmatism would win out over Roberta open violence, and personal, hands on tactics. Though, she has Roberta's kinder side... I hope...”

“Also, taking this into account, Hotel Moscow was likely a replacement organization for the originally plan group. There is even a clue in the first episode. The front business operation Hotel Moscow operated was called, the Bougainvillea Trade Company.”

“While the word Bougainvillea sounds Russian. It is not. Bougainvillea is one of the names of a beautiful, thorny flower that is found only in South American and Caribbean Islands. Including, Venezuela and The Dominican Republic.”

“Why would Tex-Mex originally name a Russian mob front after a South American flower? He likely did not. The Bougainvillea name is likely a hold over from his original plans for the Black Lagoon series.”

“As I said. There is a lot of latin american themes hidden in the Black Lagoon series. You just have to look to find them.”

“The original framework was likely that this mafia would have been lead by Roberta. Roberta would likely be dressed in a similar western outfit as her counterpart wore in the Roberta Blood Trail arc, complete with bolo tie, sleeveless white blouse, black vest, and blue pants. Also, this Roberta would likely wear an olive colored military greatcoat, in a similar style with what Balalaika sometimes wears.”

“FARC is known to operate in Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela. And while the equator runs through Ecuador and Columbia, with the Venezuela directly north of the equator. There are parts of Venezuela and Columbia that can get very cold. The nations have mountainous areas.”

“There are even such mountains surrounding this city, of Caracas, all around us.”

“And there are actually glaciers in this part of the world. As such, this Roberta owning and wearing a greatcoat is not that far fetched.”

“Now, Roberta and her group's origins probably start in leaving the FARC organization, like Roberta from the Black Lagoon series. They were all former badass FARC members from intelligence units that were disgusted with the fact their superiors has relegated their jobs from rebels to guard dogs to coca fields for drug cartels. They go AWOL.

“Though, instead of ending up in Venezuela, they end up in Santo Domingo. And when they get there, they are looking to make a name for themselves as a new mafia group. With their group being known as, Hotel Caracas. In addition, this Roberta had an even rougher life as a FARC rebel, with scars covering her face and body, similar to Balalaika's scars.”

“Hotel Caracas and the Colombian mafia likely hate each others guts. This hatred is likely carried over into Black Lagoon, when is episode ten, Balalaika mentions that much of the Columbia mafia after the Lovelace family and Roberta were killed off screen by Hotel Moscow. This faction of Columbia mafia was likely based in Caracas, given that is the area the Lovelace family, Fabiola, and likely Roberta, are from.”

Matthew inquired, “While we know that Fabiola is not yet in the loop. Should we be concerned about Roberta and the Lovelace family.”

Pedro stated, “Given the date, Roberta may have not even met the Lovelace family yet. And FARC preferred to stay out of the major cities, and concentrate on the jungles and wilderness. Though, either way, I doubt we will be here, long enough, to have any trouble from them, while we are here.”

Matthew requested, “Okay. Please, continue.”

Pedro said, “With pleasure. Now, the next mafia group would likely being the Mexican Mafia. It would liking have been inspired by the badass criminals known as the Zetas. The Zetas hit the scene in nineteen ninety-nine, Black Lagoon was first published in April two thousand two. So, there is a time element that works with this.”

“Then, there are the old west genre cliches of mexican fighters being that the men dual wield their pistols and the women were knifenuts, and knife throwers. I think you know where I am going with this.”

“The leader of this organization would have been a mexican version of Chang. And his name would likely be hispanic. Such as, Chavez. Still, this Chang would dual wield his pistols, and be as equally as cool as his counterpart in the Black Lagoon series. And this Chang would have dressed in a similar fashion as he does now, just with a mexican flair.”

“In all likelihood, Chang's main enforcer would likely be a composite character of Shenhua and Sawyer. This is another scary thought.”

“Both Shenhua and Sawyer worked for Chang, in different roles. But, a composite character would have proper fighting skills and origins to make such a character work.”

“The overall body being the size and shape of Shenhua, but her looks are like Sawyer's looks and scars. Though, she probably still has her voice. Her personality would be closer to Shenhua, with a girlie-girl focus on her looks. But, her origins are Sawyer's origins. With her likely being from Texas, and her having a goth motif. But, unlike the eerie, slightly cute goth, the Sawyer we know is. This Sawyer is has sexy goth look. With her theme being the mexican death worship of Santa Muerte.”

“Maybe, this Sawyer would have been known as the Senora de Santa Muerte, or Lady of Saint Death. Her weapons would have not been a chainsaw. She would have used knife weapons similar to what Shenhua did, but with mexican themes.”

“Instead of using two kukri long knives, this Sawyer would likely use two nineteen twenties style mexican fighting knives, with ten and a half inch blades. And like Shenhua's kukri knives, Sawyer's fighting knives are attached to cords that let her throw them. Allow her to use them at range. Also, instead of Shenhua's kunai throwing knives, this Sawyer would be using mexican style throwing knives.”

“I have personally faced people that used these types of fighting knives and throwing knives. I can tell you that they are deadly weapons. Some of the people I faced over the year, that used such weapons, could give Shenhua run for her money. And the only reason I do not have a rogues gallery larger than Batman is I usually kill, or have imprisoned, most of the people that take a shot at me, my boys, or the people of my city.”

Matthew commented, “That is nice to know. Now, back to the story.”

Pedro responded, “Okay. I could see there could likely have been a romantic subplot where Chang takes an interest in Revy. And this is when Revy learns to use to shoot two pistols at once, becoming Two-hands. Though, when it becomes clear to Revy that Chang is the wrong kind of guy to date, Dutch and Benny to help her escape from Chang.”

“Also, maybe during their escape from Chang's base, the new Two-hands Revy fights this version of Sawyer, with Revy winning in the battle, but not killing, nor crippling Sawyer.”

“And Revy, Dutch, and Benny, escape with such style, that this Chang is so impressed, that he lets them go, with no reprisals. And he even later hires them for the occasional job.”

Matthew stated, “That would be just like our Chang. The man lives for style. And not just clothing. But also in once's attitude and actions.”

Pedro said, “I know. Now, the third mafia group is likely a composite if the Ripoff Church and the Florida Mob. There are two points that lend to this theory. But, we will get to that in a minute.”

“And I am guessing that that Florida Mob and the mob that Groovy Guy Russell was with, as they same mob. Which I believe their mob being called the Neveral Cartel. The only reason that the Florida Mob did not go after Benny, in Roanapur, was either they did not know that Benny was there. Or, there local leader, Lobos, whom know what would happen the likely reprisals, from Revy, Chang, and Balalaika, if they went after Benny, so he kept this quiet, and from his superiors.”

“Keep in mind Lobos, was the only one of the group that knew better than to fight the Lagoon group and the Ripoff Church. It was just that he was overruled by higher ranking members in his organization. Still, he got of that situation alive, while those around him, whom did not heed his warnings, did not.”

Matthew said, “It is always wise to heed warnings.”

Pedro stated, “I fully agree. That is why I am still alive.”

Matthew guessed, “Lee's warning to you, about the maids, that you occasionally mention?”

Pedro responded, “Exactly. Among other warnings. Now, back to this composite organization. Instead of have a religious theme, the Florida mob is just a straight forward mob, with an american western theme, as seen with Russell. Likely, the Florida mob would have been based on of Orlando, offering a whole assortment cast members for that organization.”

“The Florida mob would have been run by Yolanda, with her not being much different than her Black Lagoon version. The only difference is instead of being in a nun's uniform, she is in a dress suit, and maybe long coat. Or maybe something else. I could never figure out the Yolanda we personally know. But, this I am sure this Yolanda's personality and her eyepatch over her right eye are still there.”

“Now, the first point to the theory that the Florida mob and the Ripoff Church had a connection is Eda. As seen in the Boys and Girls omake...”

Pedro groaned, as he continued, “Dear lord, everyone we know seems come back to that omake, a lot... With a new piece of information each time. And this time, the information is found in the way Eda looked as a guy. As a guy, Eda almost looks exactly how Groovy Guy Russell looked like. In the Black Lagoon series, Eda killed her own gender counterpart, Russell... That is just a new level of twistedness.”

Matthew agreed, “No kidding.”

Pedro said, “Anyway, the Eda of the Florida mafia would likely be the Yolanda’s chief enforcer. And her dress would be a cowgirl outfit, and the outfit would be a feminine version of Russell's clothing.”

Matthew inquired, “But, what about the Florida Mob attacking the Ripoff Church in the Black Lagoon series? With those of the church returning fire?”

Pedro answered, “Simple. The locals of the Florida Mob, in Roanapur, were not in the loop, as to what was really going on. Even Russell and his boss Elvis, did not know. With Eda and Yolanda having to keep up appearances, because Revy and Rico were there.”

“This leads to my second theory on this. The second point to this theory has to do with Benny. In the Black Lagoon series, it is never stated what Benny learned from his hacking skills. Only that is greatly upset both the mob in Florida and the U.S. government.”

“It is possible that part of the Greenback Jane arc Black Lagoon was originally intended to be Benny's backstory. Giving details of the Florida mafia coming to look for him for what he found out about them, before he left Florida. Still, it is nice that Benny got a girlfriend out of that arc. He needed a break.”

Matthew said, “Yea. And I am glad they are still together.”

Pedro said, “So am I. But, back on topic. It is likely, the original set up would have been Benny got into trouble in Florida, for hacking computers, where he learned the Florida mafia was actually a front for the U.S. government. Similar to how in the Black Lagoon series, at least part of the Ripoff Church was a front of the U.S. government.”

“And like the Black Lagoon Benny, this Benny would know this, and he would have told Dutch and Revy. It would have also created a nice storyline for Benny, by getting him out of trouble with the Florida mafia, by the Lagoon crew doing a job for them. All the while, setting up a confrontation between Eda and Revy. Likely after Revy became known as Two-hands.”

“With Eda wanting to test her skills from the new Two-hands. Though, this battle could have ended in a draw, with neither seriously hurt.”

“But, during the battle Yolanda realizes what an asset Revy, Dutch, and Benny, would be. With Dutch and Benny cutting a deal with Yolanda, while Revy and Eda fight. With Yolanda offering Dutch, Benny, and Revy, a job, to get Benny out of trouble with Yolanda's origination.”

With the battle ending with a draw, between Eda and Revy, due to everyone else convincing them to stop fighting. But, the two women agree that their rivalry is not over.”

“And I am sure they Yolanda would have the pull, and honor, to keep her word about helping Benny.”

“Maybe this would be their first pirating job, that leads them to become pirates. It would fit the situation.”

“Now, the side characters. Let us start with Boris. Similar past as Boris in the Black Lagoon series. He is a Russian veteran of the Afghanistan war. Only, there is no Balalaika. He survives the war, retires with honor, and eventually moves to the Santo Domingo. Where he becomes the bartender and owner of the bar, the Yellowflag. Thus, he replaced Bao in this mix. And Bao would likely not fit in this version, because he was South Vietnam solider, and war refugee, whom was fleeing the fall of South Vietnam, and he made his way to Thailand.”

“Since we are switching things around, Garcia, whom is twelve, when he hits the scene. He would likely have a sad past. In this case, Garcia's father was killed, his property taken, with Garcia kidnapped, and he on his way to be sold into slavery by the Columbia mob. With the this Lagoon crew transporting him, just like the other Lagoon crew did for the Garcia in the Black Lagoon series.”

“Unfortunately, the maid that is coming to Garcia's rescue is not Roberta, but Fabiola. Whom is not much older than Garcia. And whom only knows capoeira dance fighting style, with no weapons training. With her becoming a maid, for the Lovelace household, as a charity case from Diego Lovelace. And Fabiola escaped the attack on the Lovelace household, and she used some favors she had, to tracked Garcia to where the Lagoon crew have him, with them heading to Santo Domingo.”

“But, Fabiola would have an ace. She knows that her former employer, the deceased Diego Lovelace, Garcia's father, was best friends with the father of Roberta, AKA Rosarita Cisneros, the leader of Hotel Caracas. And Roberta hates the Columbia cartels.”

“The Lagoon crew soon finds themselves caught in the crossfire of the Columbia mob and Hotel Caracas, with them barely coming out of it alive and unharmed.”

“This storyline ends with showing the kinder side of Roberta. Roberta takes Garcia and Fabiola into her care. To raise, teach, and take care of them. Roberta starts training Fabiola in firearms and better hand to hand tactics, while she has Garcia learn to defend himself, as well. With both Garcia and Fabiola going to private schools, while living at whatever large estate, or building, that the members of Hotel Caracas, including Roberta, live in.”

“Also, given what we just learned, it would likely be revealed that Fabiola has an older brother she has not seen in years. This would be revealed to be Rico, whom works for the Florida mafia, which when they find each other, they tragically realize they are on opposite sides of a mob war. But, both are fortunately still healthy and alive.”

“Also, some of the other side characters offer similar clues to their original possible origins. For example, Janet Bhai. While, Bhai, is Hindi for brother. With the name, Bhai originating from India. The name, Janet, originates from Haiti. The nation that shares the same island as the Dominican Republic.”

“Janet could have originally been meant to be a Haitian counterfeiter that fled from the Florida Mob in Santo Domingo, just like what the Black Lagoon Janet did in Roanapur.”

“Also, not to be insulting, but they could have kept her same basic look, with minor changes, and they could have still passed her off as Haitian.”

“Anyway, Janet could have run into the Black Lagoon crew, instead of the Ripoff Church. And she could have even been set up at a possible love triangle between her and Revy, for Benny's affection.”

“In the later manga chapters of Black Lagoon, is shows that Revy is jealous and possessive of those she romantically cares about. And given what we know from their counterparts, personally, I can safely say the manga is dead on when it comes to Revy's possessive nature, concerning her lover, Rock.”

“Then, there are those wacky nazis, and that sunken U-boat. They are completely out of place in the orient.”

“Though, there is that sunken U-boat that was found off the coast of Java, Indonesia, by some researchers. So, I guess that plot was not completely out of place.”

“But, to this day, there are politically connected nazi groups in South America. Also, I know for a fact, from Lee, that there are plenty of sunken U-boats off the southeastern coast of the United States. So, that entire storyline could have more believable, for lack of a better word, in being moved to place off the coast of the United States.”

“I learned this, a while back, when Lee and I got into a discussion on the subject. He... Err now she, had family on the U.S. coast where some of U-boats were sunk. She had some interesting stories. One such story was that among the bubbles floating up to the surface of a sunken U-boat, the coast guard found used theater ticket stubs from a local theater, in the city, on the nearby coast.”

“It seems that night before the U-boat was sunk, some of the Germans has snuck into the nearby town, went to watch a movie, then left, to return to their U-boat, only to be killed the following day by their submarine being sunk... It is a real crazy world, where I am from.”

Matthew replied, “I guess so.”

Pedro stated, “Now, onto the final, and most important part of the connections I have made with these theories. The title itself, Black Lagoon. The title might have originally been Red Lagoon, and thus named after a red colored lagoon in Canaima National Park in Venezuela.”

“But, I do not think this is the case. I think Black Lagoon was the original, intended title. And while I think the Black Lagoon was originally going to be based around Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic, the final piece of the evidence of Black Lagoon being set in the Caribbean is found in the Venezuela. In the Sierra Nevada National Park of Venezuela there is a place known as the Laguna de Mucubaji. It is a glacial lake. It is also known as Laguna Negra. Which translates in english to?...”

Matthew, whom as been paying close attention, took a calculated guess, as he asked, “Black Lagoon?”

Pedro replied, “Yes. Black Lagoon. That is also likely where the PT Boat, the Lagoon, original got its name from. At the beginning of both the first episode of the anime, and the first chapter of the manga, Dutch refers to his ship as, Black Lagoon. Though, this could have just been a case of a title drop, by the creators of the series. Because, right after, all the cast, including Dutch, just refer to the PT Boat as, Lagoon.”

Matthew had been paying completely attention to Pedro's long winded explanation. And Matthew was impressed, as he complimented, “That is a brilliant deduction. Congratulations. You just proven yourself a bigger fan of the Black Lagoon series than, Lee.”

Pedro happily replied, “Thanks.”

Matthew commented, “You are real savvy badass.”

Pedro grinned, as he responded, “And I know it. I have to be both savvy and a badass, to do my job. After all, I am the police chief of a corrupt city. Or, I use to be. I had to figure most of this out with the only help coming from my own men. My mainland superiors don't give shit about us, nor our city.”

Matthew stated, in a sympathizing tone of voice, “I know the feeling. I will sometime tell you about Mars Dome and Earth Alliance politics. It can get pretty ugly. Even during the time I left.”

Pedro said, “From what I know of your reality. I am sure that is the case.”

Matthew commented, “Now, if you can get this far into understanding of that series and its characters, then we can out think them, figure out a plan to lose our pursuers, and get away.”

Pedro replied, “My thoughts exactly.”

Matthew looked around, as he suggested, “Well, let us get into the city itself before we attract the attention from the wrong type of people here.” He turned back to look at Pedro.

Pedro looked around. He then turned back to look at Matthew, as he stated, “I agree. Now, let us leave these slums, and look for a decent hotel to rest in.”

Matthew said, “Lead the way.”

Pedro replied, “With pleasure.”

Pedro still had his bearings, on where they were, in relation to where they wished to go. He turned, and he started walking in the direction that lead them into the city of Caracas, with Matthew following right behind him.

(_)

At that moment, elsewhere, in a large home, in the city of Caracas, in the third story, inside master bedroom, sunlight streamed in from a nearby draped window, and onto a man and woman were nude, as they were having sex, while laying over the sheets, in their large bed.

The man was hispanic, in his late thirties He was in good physical shape. He had short black hair, gray eyes, and tanned skin.

The woman was fair skinned, and she was in her twenties. And while she was slender, she had a very physically well toned body. She had blue eyes and long blond hair. She let her blond hair be loose, as it ran down her back, and nearly to her waistline.

The man was laying on his back, as the woman was sitting up, on top of his waist, as she rode him like a horse, cowgirl style.

But, as she noticed that he had stop doing anything, she stopped, as well, to find out what was the matter.

The woman looked down at the man's face, as she asked the man, in spanish, “So, what is the problem, Severo? You are usual more active than this. Is something on your mind?”

Severo looked up at the beautiful woman's face, as he said, “Just thinking, Alice. It is about my job in the cartel.”

Alice inquired, “Yes. And what do your superiors in the Manisarera Cartel want you to do this time?”

Severo answered, “Well, because I am the lieutenant for this area of Venezuela, they want me to meet with two potential buyers. Along with them requesting that I tie up a loose end for them.”

Alice cracked a grin, as she requested, with a bit of curiosity in her tone of voice, “Do tell?”

Severo said, “Certainly. Last night, I got a phone call from my superiors. And they dumped three jobs on me, at once today. Both groups looking to be a buyers, and they contacted us, around the same time.”

“On group is part of a russian mafia. The other buyers are a chinese mafia group. One of our contacts in the orient arranged the meeting with the second group. From what I understand, our contact stated the chinese are on the level. Which is fine. But, I don't know how to handle the russians. They get pissed off over the littlest of details.”

“And I know that these meetings are a test by my superiors. If I screw up either of these meetings, I will either never be seen again, or my corpse will be found with a Colombian necktie.”

“And to make matters worse, there have been reports of a very dangerous woman that left her guard post at one of the coca fields, in Colombia, without permission. Second hand reports state that she has been seen heading for this city. And from what I can gather, she could be in this city as early as today.”

"The good news is that she stands out a bit, due to her purple hair. So, she should not be that hard to find. And my superiors want her caught, and killed, to make an example out of her.”

“The problem is, I am not sure how to deal with all of this.”

Severo saw Alice's grin turned absolutely wicked, as she stated, “Oh Severo, all these problems are very easy to handle. Both the chinese and russians are easy to understand. Once you know how to deal with them. When you meet the chinese, just be polite. The chinese are all about structure, stability, and civility. But, when they are violent, they are quick and brutal. If you are polite and easy going, you should do fine.”

“Though, on the other hand, meeting with the russians can be tricky. But, they are not hard to understand. If they are rude to you, just let it slide. It means you are fine. It is when russians start being polite to you, or when they are angry, that you need to worry.”

“And as you handle these meetings, you can have your second in command, Velasco, and some of your men, go find the bitch that ran off, and make an example out of her.”

“And if you can pull all three of the missions off in one day, without a hitch. You will not only please your superiors, but you will be on track to becoming your own boss, your own capo, in the cartel, within a year.”

Severo cracked a grin in response to what Alice said. He then complimented, “Those are wise words, Alice. I am glad you are my girlfriend.”

Alice replied, “No problem.” Her grin turned more lecherous, as she suggested, “Now, let's have some more fun, before you have to go to work.”

Severo smile widened a little bit, as he said, “I like that idea.”

They then went back to having sex. As they did so, Alice's outward expression and actions showed pleasure, while her inward emotions were those of disgust.

Alice thought, with annoyance, 'The things I do for my country... Still, I have to inform my superiors of these russian and chinese developments. This could be good, or bad, depending on how those meetings work out... And how I can steer this entire situation to my advantage.'

Alice looked down at Severo's pleasurable grin, as she continued her thoughts, 'After this idiot leaves for work, I will leave on the excuse of going shopping. At least this guy gives me the money I want. I actually have a nice little nest egg, hidden away, that even my superiors don't know about. So, if they ever decide to try betray me, by cutting me loose, I can fall back on my own cash reserves.'

'I will make the phone call, at my usual place, with my superiors, to inform them of what is going on... If this works out, it might get me a promotion, and away from this drug lord pig.'

'Though, at least my superiors let me have an alias that fit me. Because, I do feel like Alice in a twisted wonderland.'

Alice and Severo continued their intimate actions for another half hour, before they then stopped, got cleaned up, and dressed. With Severo soon leaving for work, where he would schedule the appointments for his two groups of clients, for later that day, by phone. First the russian, then the chinese.

Fifteen minutes after Severo left, Alice also exited the building, for her own errand.

(_)

Meanwhile, around that time, on an inland road leading into the city of Caracas, a faded, and pitted, blue, two door, pickup truck came to a stop, by the sidewalk, on the right side of a nearly empty street. The driver left the engine running, and in gear.

As soon as the truck came to a stop, a woman jumped out the bed of the truck, and onto the sidewalk. The reason the woman did not ride inside the vehicle, was that she was on guard, and she wanted to be able to escape the truck, at a moment's notice.

The woman was of average height, and fair skinned. She was in good physical shape. She had blue eyes and long purple hair, that went down to her waist line, and was tied in a ponytail, at two points. One point was between her shoulder blades, and the other point was just below nearly to her waist.

The woman wore green combat fatigues, and a green military cap on her head. The military cap had a red trim band around the bottom of the hat. She had a pistol holstered in a holster, on the right side of her belt.

As the woman stood up straight, she walked towards the driver's side of the truck, which had the window down, while she used her left hand to reach into her left pants pocket, as she kept her right hand on the grip of her holstered pistol.

When the reached the driver's side of the truck, the driver in the truck looked over to her.

The woman used her left hand to pulled out a few Venezuelan Bolívar bank note bills, from her pocket. She handed the bills up to the open window, on the left passenger side of the truck.

The driver used his right hand, to reach across the empty passenger seat, and took the bills from the woman's left hand. The women then pulled her left hand from the open window.

Neither the woman, nor the driver said anything to each other, as the driver pocketed the cash. And the man then drover away, down the street, without saying a word.

The woman then took around, she saw that she did not go unnoticed, as few of the people on the sidewalks were looking at her.

The woman ignored the people looking at her, as she turned, and started walking down the sidewalk.

The woman continued walking, as she thought, 'I need to be mindful of my attire. I am going to attract attention. I need stick to the alleyways and back streets, as I begin my search.'

'Still, the last week has not been the most pleasant week of my life. A week ago, nearly to the day, I decided to quit my job as guard dog, at some cartel coca fields, in Columbia.'

'I joined the revolution to be a rebel for justice. I did not join up to be a guard dog.'

'And with one lead for help drying up, after the next, I have had to go further, and further, east. And this is my last lead.'

'But, Diego Lovelace was not at his estate. Though, the people I spoke too, in the area around his estate, said that he left earlier this morning, with his son, to go into town, to do some shopping.'

'So, I had to hitch a ride here, to come into town to look for them. Though, the driver only was willing to take me this far, if I paid him. And at least he knew better than to come on to me, or ask me any questions. But, it seems intelligence like he demonstrated, is a rare commodity these days.'

'With luck, I will find him, before the others find me. And at least, I hid my duffel bag near his home, so I don't have to carry it around, as I look for him, and his son... And they told me Diego's son's name was Garcia... I wonder what they are like?... I hope they are kind people...'

'Still, finding them should not be that much of a problem. Even in a city this size. That is why they call me, the Bloodhound of Florencia. Once I set my sights on someone, I don't stop until I find them. Though, in this case, when I find the Lovelace family, I wish nothing but the best for the Lovelace family, and for our eventual meeting to be peaceful.'

And I need to fine my deceased father's best friend, Diego Lovelace, in this town, and ask for his help. Though, to be honest, all I was going to ask him was for was some supplies, to survive in the mountains. From there, I will have to try to make a run through the wilderness, to the north, and to the ports, on the other side of the mountains. There, I will try to get on a ship, out of South American.'

'And I would have to take the mountains. And I sure there are those after me have men stationed along the Autopista Caracas La Guaira highway. So, I can not go west, around the mountains, to the ports. And the other way to the north coast, be road, is the highway, on the east coast of the country. Which is too far away. So, going through the northern mountains is the safest route.'

'Now, to find the Diego Lovelace, and get the supplies I need to survive my planned trek through the mountains.'

Rosarita Cisneros, AKA Roberta, AKA the Bloodhound of Florencia, then walked down the sidewalk, and further into the city of Caracas Venezuela, as she continued her search for Diego and Garcia Lovelace.

(_)

An hour later, on the south coast of the Caribbean Sea, at the Simon Bolívar International Airport, in Maiquetia, Venezuela, a small private, business jet had just landed, the plane was presently moving off the runway.

Simon Bolivar International Airport was roughly thirteen miles northwest of downtown Caracas, and the airport served as the main international airport for Caracas, Venezuela.

Right after the private jet came to a stop, the hatch, on the left front side of the plane, opened from the bottom, and lowered itself into steps, down onto the tarmac below.

Due to being by the coast of the Caribbean Sea, it was slightly windy on the tarmac of the airport.

Two chinese men in black business suits walked down the steps to the tarmac. One after another. The first want stood to the right of the end of the steps, while the other stood to the left of the steps. With both men facing away from the airplane, as they look around for any possible signs of danger.

Both men was armed, but, their firearms were hidden under their clothing, and they were bodyguards for the man that was to follow them outside.

At the same time, as the two bodyguards exited the jet, a black, four door, mid-level car drove up to the left side of the plane, and came to a stop forty feet from the plane's staircase. The right passenger side of the car was facing the jet.

A second later, as the car was in park, but the engine was still running, the front right passenger door open. A chinese man in a black business suit stepped out of the front passengers side of the car. This man was also armed, with a pistol hidden among his clothing.

The man then gently shut the car door behind him. Next, the man turned and walked across the tarmac, to stand about five feet front the bodyguards, and right in front of the left bodyguards, to the side of the steps.

It was then, that the man the bodyguards were there for, exit the plan. He stepped down the stairs, and onto the tarmac below.

The man was a middle-aged chinese man, in his early to mid forties, with short black hair. He wear a white button up shirt, a blue tie, black pants, black belt, and black shoes. He wore a black waistcoat over his shirt, and over the waist coat was a black formal long coat. There was a white sash being draped, under the coat collar to hang loose on the side of his chest. The man was harmed with two pistols, in belt holsters, behind his waist, under his long-coat. The man also had on sunglasses over his eyes.

When the chinese man stepped onto the tarmac, he paid his bodyguards little mind, as he continued walking towards the black, four door car.

The man that had come from the car walked beside him, and to his right.

The man whom had come from the airplane asked his assistant, whom was walking with him, in chinese, “Have the rest the men already arrived?”

The assistant answered, in chinese, “Yes, Mister Chang. They are already at the hotel we are using, in downtown Caracas.”

Chang questioned, “So, the reservations have been made without a problem?”

Chang's assistant answered, “Yes. We have reservations for the hotel were made without a problem. We are now staying at one of the nicest hotels in the city. You, of course, have the penthouse, presidential suite. The rest of us have lower level, single bed suites. And the men, and I, wish to thank you for the first class tickets, and for giving them each a room at the hotel.”

Chang commented, in a casual tone of voice, “Just because all of you cannot fit in my private plane does not mean any of you have to fly in coach. And the hotel suites are nothing worth mentioning.”

Chang mentally reflected, with amusement, 'Also, it is wise to keep you guys close to me. Still, Shenhua was a bit miffed that I wouldn't let her come with us. Though, she admitted she understood my reasoning for not bringing her. While I kept a few of my top level guys in charge of the day to day operations, while I am gone for few nights. Shenhua is there to make sure that if anybody, both internal, or external, tried to take advantage of my temporary absence, that she will deal with them, quickly, and quietly.'

Chang assistant complimented, “As always Mister Chang, your generosity seems to be without limits.”

Chang thought, 'And your loyalty seems to be without limit. Though, first class tickets, both ways, and rooms in a quality hotel, are small prices to pay for such continued loyalty...'

'Still, I wonder how long it will take to reach the city, and our men. I do not like have so few of my personal guarding me. And as soon as I get to the rest of my men, the better. Also, there is the matter of customs? Did our bribery work?'

Chang asked, “What about customs? How long will it take to reach my men?”

Chang's assistant stated, “We were able to bribe both this airport's supervising custom's officer, and the chief of security. So, you will not have to go through customs, and that will save us time.”

Chang replied, “That is good.” He mentally added, 'That avoids some problems. And it is always nice to work with competent subordinates.'

Chang's assistant mentioned, “Still, it will take us around hour and a half to reach the men.”

Chang mentally wondered, 'While we have to literally go around some mountains, to reach Caracas from the west. The last few times I have come here, it did not take that long to get to the city.'

Chang inquired, “What is the hold up?”

Chang's assistant replied, “Traffic congestion.”

Chang questioned, “National football game?”

Chang's assistant, “Yes. Actually, two games. The people in this region of the world do love to watch other people kick a ball around a field. And there are two major football games scheduled to start this afternoon.”

“One is in Estadio Olímpico de la UCV stadium, and the other is in Brígido Iriarte stadium. There are already of minor traffic jams forming on the Autopista Caracas La Guaira highway, coming into Caracas, and going into downtown. Between us and our destination. As people are trying to get to those games, before they start this afternoon.”

Chang shrugged, as he responded, “It can't be helped. Fortunately, our meeting is not until later this afternoon.” He thought, 'I spoke to him, on my plane's phone, a few minutes ago. And that was actually a pleasant conversation. He informed us where and when meet him. And he gave me good directions, which I have written down on a piece of paper, in a coat pocket. I get the feeling this Severo wants our business. Which is good.'

Chang's assistant asked, in a calm tone of voice, “Where would you like us to take you for lunch? If you let us know, we can call ahead on the brick, for reservations, to the restaurant of your choice.”

Chang thought, 'My men even have a car with cellphone service, on short notice. Nice.'

Chang answered, “We will decide something later. Though, I am not in the mood anything formal.”

Chang's assistant replied, “As you wish, sir.”

By then, they had come to the right passengers side of the black mid-level car, with tinted windows. Chang's assistant quickly walked ahead of Chang, and he opened back right passenger side door to the vehicle.

As Chang stepped into this car, on the back right passenger side of the vehicle, he thought, 'I hope this deal that Abrego set up for me comes through. Or, I will be very annoyed with him.'

When Chang's assistant saw that Chang was fully inside the car, and seated in the backseat, he gently shut the door. Chang's assistant then turned around walked to the front passenger door. Next, he opened the front passenger door, got into the front passenger seat, and he gently shut the front passenger door behind himself.

A few seconds later, the driver up the car put the car into drive gear, and he then drove his passengers towards an exit of airport, that had already been opened and cleared by the airport officials, for them to quietly enter and leave from.

As the black painted car exited airport, the driver headed for the Autopista Caracas La Guaira highway. With them leaving behind the two bodyguards to guard the jet.

Meanwhile, the pilot, and co-pilot, inside the jet took care of running instrument checks on the plane. Along with them making sure the jet was refueled in a timely manner. Just in case Chang has to leave the country ahead of schedule, and in a hurry.

(_)

Around noon, local time, in a lobby of nice, large, tall, hotel, with a present day, modern motif, in downtown Caracas, a former captain of the Soviet military, and her men, whom served with her in the Russian-Afghan war, were organized to move out, to their scheduled meeting.

They had just had finished lunch in a restaurant, that was located across the street from the hotel they were in. And they were now head over to their scheduled meeting.

Those of the captain’s men, whom were not there, were retrieving the cars they had rented. With those men driving the cars to the front of the hotel, to pick up the rest of them.

The captain, also known as, Balalaika, along with her men, had joined one of the russian mafias some months ago. And Balalaika had long since realized that she and her men still had to prove themselves a bit more, before her superiors would trust them with more lucrative opportunities.

Balalaika was a fair skinned woman, in her mid to late thirties.

Though, if someone had risked looking, they would have seen that Balalaika had a scars running down the right side of her face and chest, with the scars disappearing under her clothing.

Balalaika was of average high, with a slender, yet muscular build. She had blue eyes. She also had long blond hair that was tied off into a ponytail, and what went down to the small of her back, save some hair, on the bangs of her forehead, that was allowed to hand loose, and drop down between the sides of her face, and her ears.

Balalaika wore a matching red business dress and red high heels, that went will with her pink painted finger nails and blond hair. Her red dress was cut to show a wide v shape, which showed the top of her cleavage, and some of the scars on her chest.

Balalaika’s men were wearing casual wear, of various types, and combinations of shirts, pants, jackets, and either dress shoes, or military boots.

As Balalaika stood, with her back leaning against the end of the check in desk of the hotel, she looked out, into the lobby. Except for a few employee and customers coming and go, through the lobby, were her men. Her men were lounging around in the lobby. With them either sitting in the chairs and couches of the lobby, or standing next to each other, as they talked to each other, in russian.

Balalaika, and all of her men were armed with pistols, hidden amongst their clothing.

As Balalaika slowly looked around the room, while she waited for her ride, she casually thought, 'Well, at least the flight here, yesterday morning was not too bad. And this hotel is decent. Also, we found a creative way to get our weapons, and ammo, through customs. And the vehicles we rented in advance are in good shape. All in all, getting here was not that difficult... Now, comes the hard part.'

“Though, it was nice that this Severo contacted us, earlier this morning. And he was amendable on what time we would meet him. Still, he was adamant about where we would meet him. Though, he stated this was due to the location being an office setting, which was already set up for meetings. And I feel he is telling the truth. So, I agreed to meet him there.'

'Both myself, and his superior, would have his ass, if he tried anything with us.'

'Still, this will be the third mission we will have done for our boss, Pyotr, sense we joins his little organization. And we flawlessly accomplished our last two missions'.

'Though honestly, I would think our new boss, Pyotr, would have better things for us, than to send an elite fighting force, such as mine, on a simple errand... But, then again, we still have to prove ourselves to him. And as such, we will be as professional as we were in the military.'

'Though, I do find it annoying that Pyotr occasionally asks me to come up with both a name for my group, and a name for any future front business I organize. We do not need a special name. Our presence, and our actions should be enough...'

'Back to the mission at hand. This mission is simple enough. We are to meet with representatives of the Manisarera Cartel, lead by this Severo person, to discuss the purchase and future transport, of their products, into Russia, for Pyotr's group to sell there.'

'It is a simple enough transaction. But, experience has painfully taught me, that is usually is when everything starts to go wrong. So, I will have to be on my guard. And so will my men.'

'Besides which, this is only the first of many possible meetings, to workout the deal. We are here to get our foot in the door. With any other possible meetings being handled by the more diplomatic members of Pyotr's group.'

'I admit to myself that subtle negotiations have never my one of my strengths. I have always been more of a person of action.'

'And that might be why Pyotr sent us on this mission. The other two missions were more action oriented. And Pyotr needs to learn out how I handle myself, when I am out of my element. And this meeting is my test. And I won't fault him. If I was in his position, I would like do the same thing, in testing someone such as myself.'

'Still, it is tempting to wear my greatcoat here. But, with this warm humid weather, it is just not practical. And if I did wear it, I am concerned I might be making a little too forceful a presentation towards our potential business partners. I do not want to scare them, the moment they meet us. First impressions are important, after all.'

Balalaika then noticed a vase filled with purple flowers in full bloom, by the check in desk. The vase was set by a window on the check in desk, opposite from where Balalaika was. The vase near the front, windowed double-doors of the hotel.

Balalaika thought, 'That is a beautiful type of flower. I wonder what it is called? I will have to ask the clerk at the desk. Though, I have to keep in mind, that I need to use english. Because, I do not know much spanish, and this clerk more than likely does not know russian.'

Balalaika turned around, to face the check in desk. She looked over at the clerk on duty, whom was not busy.

A few seconds later, the clerk noticed Balalaika. He turned to Balalaika, as he calmly asked her, in english, “Is there something I can help with you, ma'am?”

Balalaika looked at the clerk, as she casually used her left index finger to point at the vase with the flowers. A second later, she dropped her left hand back to her side. She then inquired, with a touch of curiosity in her tone of voice, in english, “Yes. I was wondering what those flowers in that vase were called?”

The clerk turned to look at the flowers in the vase. He then looked back at Balalaika, as he answered, “The flowers are bougainvilleas. They grow wild around this region.”

Balalaika casually replied, “Such a lovely name for lovely flowers. Thank you.”

The clerk responded, “You are welcome. If you need anything, please let us know.”

Balalaika calmly said, “I certainly will.”

Due to Balalaika looking partly towards flowers in the vase, and towards the front windows of the lobby, she then saw the cars her group had rented, roll to a stop in front of the hotel.

Balalaika cracked a grin, as she thought, 'Good. They are finally here.'

Balalaika then turned toward her men, as she walked back over by them.

As Balalaika approached her men, she noted that they all quickly realized she was coming. Those of her men that were sitting down, quickly stood up, as all of her men immediately faced her, while standing at attention.

Balalaika soon came to a stop, ten feet from the closest of her men, whom she was facing. As she looked at her soldiers, she thought, with a bit of happiness, and appreciation, 'It is nice that my men always pay me the respect I deserve. And I try to do the same for them.'

Balalaika stated, in russian, “Comrades. It is time to move out.”

Balalaika then watched her men started filing out of the building, and into the cars outside. She soon joined them.

Meanwhile the clerk of hotel watched as the russians exit the hotel and into the cars outside. He thought, 'I do not know who they are. But, I have a feeling that I do not want to know, either. And I have to be careful, because we have them booked here till tomorrow... I think it is time for me to call in that favor my manager owes me, and take a few days off.'

The clerk then watched the all the russians got into the various cars. With the cars doors being closed. And the cars driving way from the hotel.

The clerk then want back to his usual duties.

(_)

Just after Balalaika and her men left their hotel, in downtown Caracas, around twenty miles north of them, was the port city of La Guaira.

La Guaira was one of the main ports for the nation of Venezuela.

The day was still sunny and warm. With a breeze coming off the Caribbean Sea.

At that very moment, on the coast of La Guaria, an old U.S. patrol torpedo boat, in fairly good condition, had just pulled up to one of the piers on the docks. The pier was set against the right side of the PT boat.

There were no torpedoes, nor other weapons visible, on the deck of the boat. Though, the torpedo holders, and launch tubes, on the deck of the boat, were still intact.

The flag the ship was flying at the mast of the boat was the American flag of the United States.

As the boat came to a stop, the engines on the boat went silent.

The first person whom came out of the out of the pilothouse was a slender man of average height. Whom appeared to be between his late teens to early twenties. The man had fair skin, and moderately long blond hair that was in a ponytail. He had green eyes that he wore glasses over.

The man wore a short sleeved, button up, hawaiian shirt. The shirt had an orange background, with large green leafs cover much of the orange background of the shirt.

The man also wore light brown pants, and white tennis shoes. He shirt was untucked, with the bottom of his shirt hiding the belt around his waist.

The blond man took a look around him. He saw there were a few other private boats, and small yachts nearby, on other piers. But, there were no other boats by the pier they were on, and he did not see anyone on the boats, piers, nor docks.

The man looked back towards the door to the pilothouse that he can come out of, as he stated, in english, “It look like we have this pier to ourselves.”

Another person walked out of deck, out of the door the man had used to exit the pilothouse.

The second person was a skinny, but athletic woman, whom was shorter than the blond man. She appeared to be in her late teens. She had tanned skin, yellow eyes, and long red hair that was pulled back in a ponytail, except for a some hair above her forehead. Including, two long strands of red hair, on her bangs, that went down the side of her face.

The woman wore a sleeveless black shirt, and blue jeans. Her shirt was untucked and went below her waistline. Under her shirt, while she had her jeans zipped up, she left the waist button on her jeans open. And her jeans were held up by a green army belt around her waist. She wore green boots that were not laces up. She wore not bra, nor socks. Though, she did wear black panties under her pants.

The woman wore he sleeveless black shirt untucked, to hide her semi-automatic pistol, that she had tucked under the back of her pants. With the grip of the pistol facing her right side, so should could pulled it out with her right hand.

The woman's pistol was an M Nine Beretta semi-automatic pistols. The magazine in the pistol could hold up to fifteen rounds of nine by nineteen millimeter parabellum caliber bullets.

And while there was not a bullet in the chamber of the weapon, the safety on the firearm was on, as an added precaution to prevent the gun from accidentally misfiring.

The woman came to a stop five feet from the man, as she turned to face him. She said, in english, “Good. Now, let's tie this thing off. You get the plank, I will get the ropes.”

The man joked, “It sounds like you want to walk someone off the plank. Like an old-fashioned pirate.”

The women flatly said, “Can it. I am not in the mood.”

The man thought, 'As if you are ever in the mood.' He then turned and walked towards the front of the deck. When he reached the front of the deck, he found a wood plank.

The man picked it up wooden plank and set it between the right side of the front of the boat, and the pier, which was only about two feet lower than the desk of the PT boat.

The man then walked on the plank, and onto the pier itself. He then turned towards the back of the PT boat, as he walked down the pier.

Meanwhile, the woman had walked to the back of the boat. She had retrieved the ropes.

She then walked to the right side of the back of the boat, to see that the man was standing on the pier.

She dropped one of the ropes. Next, she held one end of rope in her hands, as she tossed the other end of the rope to the man on the pier.

The man caught the part of rope that was tossed to him with ease. The man then tied the rope, in a knot, on the mooring on the pier, by him.

At the same time, the woman tied the other end of the rope to the mooring by her, on the boat.

When both adults were finished, they leaned up. The woman also picked up the loose rope that she had dropped. The woman walked down the right side of the PT boat, as the man walked parallel to her, from the pier.

When both of them reached the front end of the PT boat, the woman held on to one end of the rope, she had in hand, as she toss the other end to the attentive man. The man caught that end of the rope.

The man then started tying his end of the rope to the mooring on the pier, as the woman tied her end of the rope to the mooring by her, on the front end of the ship.

When they were finished, the woman stood up, and walked to the middle of the front of the deck, as the man walked up the plank, and onto the front deck of the ship.

The man came to a stop, about ten feet from the woman.

A few seconds later, a second man stepped out of the pilothouse. The man was a tall, dark skinned man with a moderately heavy, muscular build, whom was in very good physical shape. The man took such good care of himself, it was difficult to tell his age. As he looked to be around thirty. Though, he acted with the maturity of a man well into middle-age.

The man was bald, and he had a well groomed, black goatee that almost when completely around his mouth, except for right below his nose. There were also the small brass looped earrings in each of his ears. With the each set of three earrings lined up in a row.

The dark skinned man were a sleeveless greenish white shirt. Over his shirt was a short sleeved green army flack jacket over his shirt. He wore dark green pants, and green boots. Around his waist was a brown leather belt, with a silver belt buckle. In the center of the belt, the silver was formed into the shape of a skull of tiger.

The dark skinned man also wore green tinted sunglasses that enclosed around his eyes

After finishing talking to the port master on the radio, the dark skinned had spent that last few minutes locking all the hatches from the inside. So, they could leave the boat, with little worry of someone stealing it. And he now used his keys to lock the pilothouse door behind him.

The dark skinned man then turned, and walked across the deck, on the right side of the ship, as he headed towards the front of the ship.

As the dark skinned man approached the other two adults, the redheaded woman and the blond man turned to face him.

As the dark skinned man came to a stop around ten feet from the other two adults, the blond man joked, “Oh captain, my captain. The boat is tied to the dock. I hope the knots I made are to your satisfaction.”

The dark skinned let out a small chuckle. He then said, in english, “I trust you Benny. And as I said before, you can call me Dutch”

Benny replied, “Okay, Dutch.”

Dutch turned to looked at the redheaded woman, as he calmly asked, “Now, how are you doing, Revy?”

Revy looked away from Dutch, as she said, “Fine, Dutch. I am just a bit bored from being cooped up with you two for that last few days.”

Dutch looked down at Revy, as he calmly said, “I hope we were polite company.”

Revy looked up at Dutch, in his face, as she begrudgingly admitted, “You both were.”

Dutch happily stated, “Good. Now, we can stretch our legs on some land.”

Revy commented, “Yea. I am looking forward to it.”

Dutch replied, “Aren't we all.”

Benny asked, “So, what is our next move, Dutch?”

Dutch focused on Benny, as he stated, “I got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I got off the radio with the port master here. And he is who I thought he would be. He is a good friend of mine that owes me a few favors. That is why I brought us here. He has agreed to quietly let us use this port for the night, free of charge. And we even skip the usual customs. Though, we have to be gone by tomorrow afternoon.”

Revy deadpanned, “Good. Cause none of us have our passports.”

Dutch ignored Revy's sarcasm, as he continued explaining the situation to them, “Yes. The bad news. We need to buy supplies. Some of everything, including food and fuel. It shouldn't take us an hour to get these items here. But, there are a couple of small items I need for the engine and electronics for this boat. And the port master says we will have to go the capital of this nation, Caracas, to get it.”

“It is over an hour and a half long trip into that city from here. But, the port master said the local taxis would take all three of us there, for a fair price. And the taxis in Caracas would bring us back here for a similar price.”

Revy complained, “It is going to suck that we will have to spent over an hour and a half in the car to get a few small items. And then another hour and a half, or so, to get back here.”

Benny turned to Revy, as he pointed out, “Take it from an electronics expert. It is the small items that usual cause the greatest aggravations.”

Dutch focused on Revy, as he stated, “Benny is right. I do not want to be in the middle of the Caribbean sea, and have our engine breakdown. Given our previous actions, it is not like we can call for help.”

Revy conceded, in a defeated tone of voice, “Alright.”

Dutch mentioned, “Besides, the port master also mentioned a bar he thought we would like, that is in Caracas. The bar is west part of the city, just east of where we will be coming into that town. It is located near the Rio Guaire river.”

Dutch and Benny saw Revy perk up, as she stated, in a slightly happy tone of voice, “That is more like.”

Dutch thought, 'I have found out, very quickly, that when dealing with Revy. It is best to save the best news for last.'

Benny looked over at Dutch, as he inquired, “So, do we have enough money for everything?”

Dutch turned to Benny, as he answered, “Yea. We are fine, for the moment. The only thing we are out of, that we cannot replace here, is bullets for my revolver. I ran out, after that incident, a week ago. And I do not know anyone, in this country, to buy bullets from. Fortunately, I have ammo for my shotgun. But, this is not the type of nation that a foreigner would want to openly tote their firearm into.”

Revy cracked a grin, as she stated, “Don't worry. I will protect both of you.”

Dutch turned to Revy, as he returned Revy's smile. He said, “You have my full faith and confidence.”

Revy replied, “Thanks.”

Benny looked over at Revy, as he mentally wondered, 'But, where she has her gun on her?”

Benny then risk a quick look at Revy's lower body, and from the angle he saw her, which was her left side, he saw that slight out line of a pistol being stuck down the back of her pants, with the grip sticking out of the top, to the right. So, Revy could grab her pistol with her right hand.

Benny look up at Revy's face, as he thought, 'And I doubt that pistol is in a holster. Though, past experiences with Revy have taught me when I need to stay quiet. But, part of me just has to say something about this.'

Benny cautiously he warned, “I hope you have the safety on that pistol. Shooting yourself on in the ass would not be fun.”

Revy looked over at Benny, as she snapped, “Relax, Benny. I always keep the chamber empty. Though, I know to leave the safety on, as well.”

Benny replied, “Good.” He then muttered under his breath, “I wish I just could call my parents to let them know I am alive and well.”

Dutch overheard Benny, as he thought, 'So, that joke is just to hide that he his homesick. I can understand that.'

Dutch stated, “Don't worry Benny. When we get into a more stable situation, we will find a way to contact your family. To let them know you are alive and well. In way that the government, nor the mob, cannot trace back to us.”

Benny looked over at Dutch, as he sgratefully aid, “Thanks, Dutch.”

Benny then noticed that Dutch was wearing a green flack jacket, over green shirt. Dutch had left the jacket open.

Benny complimented, “Nice flack jacket, Dutch.”

Dutch turned to Benny, as he commented, “Thank you. I found it in the boat.”

Benny asked, “Do you have another one inside the boat?”

Dutch responded, “Nope. Sorry. This was the only one I found on this tub.”

Benny joked, “That is alright. I will just use you as a shield. You are bigger than me, anyway.”

Revy overheard Benny, as she said, “Nice joke, Benny.”

Dutch complimented, “Good one, Benny.”

While no one laughed at Benny's joke, Benny could tell from their facial expressions that Dutch and Revy found his joke amusing.

Benny replied, “You're both welcome.”

Revy asked, “Hey guys. Given it is so hot here, in this part of the world. I am thinking about cutting my jeans into short-shorts. What do you think?”

Dutch commented, “Your choice. It is your life.”

Revy turned to Benny.

Benny noticed Revy looking at him, as he said, “Fine by me. You would look good either way.” Next, he pointed at the orange button up shirt, with green leafs, with her right hand, as he continued, “And you do have some sense of style. Take for example, the hawaiian shirt you got me. I like it.” Benny dropped his right hand back to his side.

Revy smiled at Benny, as she stated, “I told you it would look good on you.” She thought, 'And I love it when people say I am right.' She verbally continued, “I am also thinking of getting a midriff shirt of some type.”

Dutch cracked a grin, as he said, “We will support whatever you decide to wear, Revy.” He mentally added, 'And with your body, Revy. Everything looks good on you. And I am sure you look good when you have nothing on. But, given your temper. I am not going to say that to your face.'

Benny agreed, “Dutch is right about that.”

Revy smile widened slightly, as she replied, “Thanks. Now, let's get something to eat. Get the supplies we need here. And then, we will head to Carcasas. Because, I want to check out that bar.”

Revy then turned, walked to the right edge of the boat, and jump off the boat. Her landing on the pier was a little unsteadily, but she quickly found her footing, without falling on her butt. She then walked towards down the pier, towards land.

When Benny and Dutch saw that Revy was out of earshot, due to the slight sea breeze, Benny looked at Dutch, as he casually asked, “Dutch, how can someone be so crazy, yet have such a beautiful smile?”

Dutch looked over at Benny, as he answered, in a relaxed tone of voice, “One of the great mysteries in life, Benny-boy. Now, let's go catch up with her, before she gets herself into trouble.”

Benny compliment, “Good idea.”

Dutch and Benny then headed over to the plank. Dutch when down the plank first, then Benny. Once they were on the pier, they briskly walked down the pier, to catch up to Revy.

A few seconds later, Dutch and Benny reached Revy, and all three of them went into town to get something to eat. Next, they would get the supplies they need in La Guaira. Then, once that was done, they planned to find a taxi that would take them to Caracas.

(_)

As Dutch, Revy, and Benny, disembarked from their ship, just over a dozen miles south of La Guaira, on the western part of Caracas, Pedro and Matthew had just walked out of the slums an hour ago, with them finally now entering one of the southern parts of the city, where some hotels were located.

Pedro and Matthew walked side by side, along a sidewalk, with Pedro to Matthew’s right, and the buildings on the sidewalk they were on, to Matthew's left.

Both men had noticed that there were very few pedestrians on the sidewalk, with a moderate amount of vehicle traffic, coming both ways, down the two lane street. But, neither said anything about the matter.

In case of trouble possibly finding them, both men kept an eye out, around them.

While they continued walking at a casual pace, Pedro apologized, in english, “Sorry, it took so long to find a nearby opening from the slums, into the city.”

Matthew shrugged, as he said, in english, “It is not your fault. We are not familiar with this part of the city. And we had to ask directions. Though, I wish we could have just used a cab.”

Pedro mentioned, “I have had some dicey situations using taxis that just pulled up to me on the side of the street. I suggest we only use taxis that we call to come and get us.”

Matthew conceded, “You may have a point there. Now, you were are the one with the directions. So, where do we go from here?”

Pedro answered, “Well, if I am following the directions that guy I talked to last, correctly. On the next turn to the left, on this very sidewalk, we should find a hotel that will suit our needs.”

Matthew commented, “It is not like we can give our IDs, nor pay top dollar for a room. So, a five star hotel is out of the question. But, I am not going to sleeping in a roach motel.”

Pedro stated, in a comforting tone of voice, “Don't worry. I have enough gold and cash on me, that we will find some place decent.

Just then, they turned left, onto the sidewalks of the street that was perpendicular to the street they were walking beside.

Pedro and Matthew turned a corner, and they came to a stop, as they saw a five story hotel, directly in front of them, a hundred yards away, when the street ended into a, T, intersection, on the other of the city block they were on.

The exterior of the hotel looked to be in good condition, with on minor touch up work on the paint.

Pedro said, “Well, it is not the Devil's Hotels. But, it look okay... At least on the outside.”

Matthew commented, “Do you realize that anyone else here that may have just had heard you say, would likely look at you funny?”

Pedro grinned, as he said, “Yea. I guess you're right.”

Matthew responded, “Yes. And I am glad that person that gave you directions was right, as well. Now, let's get over there, and get us a room.”

Pedro said, “Fine. But, let me do the talking.”

Matthew replied, “No problem.”

The two men then started back walking, side by side, towards the hotel.

(_)

Fifteen minutes later, Pedro and Matthew made it across the street, at a crosswalk, under a street light, and then into the five story hotel itself.

As both men walked across the city block, they noticed that they passed by a few restaurants that look like pretty good places to eat.

After they entered the lobby, Pedro and Matthew stood side by side, as they looked around. They saw that the lobby motif looked a little date. In that, while it was October, nineteen ninety-one, the lobby looked like it was last remodeled in the seventies.

But, the lobby was clean. And the furniture, carpet, and wall paneling, were in good condition.

Pedro cracked a grin, as looked at Matthew, to his left. He stated, “Admit it. This place may be a bit dated, but it does have some character to it.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he happily pointed out, “Dude. I am from two centuries in the future. Everything, in the here and now, is dated to me.”

Both men chuckled a little bit at Matthew's comment.

As they calmed down, Pedro looked over at the check in desk, and the male clerk behind it. The clerk was not busy. From behind the counter, the clerk was sitting in a chair, reading a magazine, which, from the text on the cover, was in spanish.

Pedro said, “Let's go check in.” He then started walk over to the check in desk.

Matthew followed Pedro.

A few seconds later, Pedro came to a stop a stop in front of the clerk, with Matthew coming to a stop, and standing a few feet behind Pedro, to Pedro left.

The clerk look up at the two men, as he eyes narrowed. He closed his magazine and sit in on the table.

Given the magazine was set with the cover facing upwards, Pedro saw that the magazine was about one of Venezuela's favorite sports. Football. And from the text on the cover, Pedro read that one of the articles was about a goalie.

The clerk asked, in spanish, “What can I do for you?”

Pedro at the clerk, in the clerk's eyes, as he stated, in spanish, “We are looking for a room. Is american cash alright, as payment?”

The clerk flatly answered, “Yes. Twenty five a night, for a room, for both of you, if you have IDs. A hundred a night if you don't...”

Pedro thought, 'And you likely pocket the difference.'

The clerk continued, “But, if you don't have IDs, you have to be gone by tomorrow afternoon.”

The clerk turned his head to look at Matthew, as he went onto say, “And while this nation does not have sodomy laws, sodomy is frowned upon here.” He then looked back at Pedro.

Pedro replied, “Relax. We are just friends, and we are looking for a room with two beds.”

The clerk flatly said, “Good. Now, payment up front.”

Pedro used his right hand to reached into a pocket, and he pulled out a roll of twenty dollar U.S. bills. He then looked down, as he counted out five of those bills. Then, with his left hand, put five bills onto the counter, as he looked at the clerk, while he put the rest of the money back into the pocket he had pull the roll of bills from.

The clerk looked down at the five twenty dollar bills, as he picked them up, and counted them. He then set the bills on a shelf, under the counter. Next, he swivel around in his chair, to a board with keys on hooks, with numbers and letters above each key.

The clerk then picked up one of the keys, in the middle of the board. Next, he turned his chair around, as he set the key on the counter, between him and Pedro.

As Pedro picked up the key and looked at it, the clerk stated, “The elevator is down the hall, across from the stairwell. Your room is, B ten. It is on the second floor, tenth door on your right. And if you are not gone by tomorrow afternoon, I am calling the police. Also, tomorrow, return the key to me, before you leave.”

Pedro closed the key around his right hand, as he looked at the clerk, He flatly replied, “Understood...” He thought, 'He maybe an ass, but he is likely being on the level with me. So, I might as well ask.' Pedro inquired, “By the way, is there a decent place to get a drink in this town.”

The clerk responded, “For you two. There is a place I know of that is pretty decent. I will even help you call a taxi. And I will recommend a few taxi companies that you will find in the phonebook. You can use the phone in your room to call them.”

The clerk then gave Pedro the name and directions to the bar, which was on the west end of the city, near the Río Guaire river. Along with this, the clerk listed a few reputable taxi companies that he knew of.

Pedro said, “Thank you.” he then turned around to face Matthew, as he stated, in english, “I got us a room for the night. It got directions. It is only the second story, so I suggest we use the stairwell.” He mentally added, 'I think it is best that I don't tell Matthew how rude the clerk was to me. All it will do is just put him in a bad mood.'

Matthew replied, “That is find with me.”

Pedro mentioned, “Also, I got directions to nice of a bar we might go to tonight. The clerk even mentioned a few taxi companies we could call to come get us.”

Matthew responded, “Good. But, we will do that after we get something to eat. Say, from one of the restaurants we passed by, right outside.”

Pedro replied, “That works for me.”

Matthew requested, “Then, lead the way, chief.”

Pedro turned and started walking towards the hallway that lead to the elevator and stairwell. With Matthew following right behind him.

As the clerk watched the two men leave the lobby, he turned back to his magazine, which was still sitting at the counter.

The clerk picked up his magazine. Open it up to where he had left off, and he went back to reading it.

(_)

A few minutes later, Pedro and Matthew found their room. Pedro used his key to open the door. He then opened door, and walked inside.

As Pedro walked inside, the light from the hallway allow him to see the light switch by the door, on suite side of the door. Pedro switched on the light, and looked around.

While Pedro continued walking into the room, the first think Pedro noticed was the heavy curtains, that were covering moderately sized windows on the other side of the room.

As Pedro came to a stop, he thought, 'It looks like those curtains are thick enough to block out the sunlight outside. That is good. Because we are going to need to get some sleep in a few minutes.'

Pedro then noticed two beds set against the wall, to his left. Across from the far bed, between the bet and curtains, was a small round table, with a couple of wooden chairs.

Beside the table, across from the beds, and set against the wall, was a chest of drawers.

There was no TV on top of the bureau, but there was a phone book for Caracas on top of the piece of furniture. And from the cover of the phone book, which was facing up, the phone book was in spanish.

Pedro thought, 'I am so glad I can speak and read a few languages. And spanish is my native language. But, I am very good with english, as well.'

Pedro then looked over at the nightstand, set against the wall, between the two beds. On the nightstand was a digital alarm clock, an electric lamp, and a rotatory phone.

Pedro thought, 'That phone is old fashioned, even this time. But, if it works, I am okay with it.'

Pedro then noticed at that door to his left, let to the bathroom of the suite, and that to his left was a small alcove in the room, with a straight metal rod anchors to two points on the alcove, at his chest left. With the metal rod being there for someone to hand their nice clothing on.

Pedro then noticed, as he thought, 'I don't see any wall safe in the room. But then, I don't plan on leaving anything here. So, that should not be a problem.'

Just then, Matthew walked inside the room, as he gently shut and locked the door behind him. He then walked pass Pedro, and into the bathroom. He turned on the light, and looked around.

Pedro then heard water running for a few seconds, before it shut off. He then heard the toilet flush.

Around twenty seconds later, Matthew then turned around, walked out of the bathroom. He came to a stop a few feet from Pedro.

Pedro turned to face Matthew, as he asked, “How is it?”

Matthew stated, “The good news is that the toilet, shower, and sink, are clean. The toilet works. We have hot water. Also, there are a few unopened toilet paper rolls stocked by the toilet. There are a few bars of unopened soap on the counter, by the sink. And there are some clean towels and hand towels we can use.”

Pedro agreed, “That is good news. I'll check the beds.”

Pedro then turned, and walked over, between the beds. He turned back the sheets to both beds, to find that the sheets were clean. He looked over at Matthew, whom he saw was looking back at him.

Pedro stated, “The sheets are clean, as well.”

Matthew said, “Good. At least the basics are here.”

Pedro replied, “Yes.”

Matthew asked, “So, is the water safe to drink here?”

Pedro shrugged, as he answered, “From what I understand, it is hit or miss in this nation. But, the city water here should be safe... Just don't drink a lot of it.”

Matthew suggested, “Okay. Also, I see a clock by the beds. Let's set it for eight o'clock PM. That should give us time to sleep. Then, we can get up, get something to eat, and likely be at that bar around nine.”

Pedro complimented, “Good plan.”

Matthew smiled, as he offered, “Thank you. And you can have the first shower.”

Pedro returned Matthew's smile, as he replied, “Thanks.” He mentally added, 'We may not have extra sets of clothing. But, we can at least wash the sweat off of our bodies. And after we wake up, we will get some deodorant, combs, razors, shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste.'

Pedro then went to get cleaned up, as Matthew walked between the beds set the alarm clock for eight PM. Ten minutes later, when Pedro was finished getting cleaned up, it was Matthew's turned to take a shower.

After both of them were done getting cleaned up, the two men turned off the lights in the room, they then got some much needed rest in the beds of their suite. With the curtains blocking more of the sunlight in the room, allowing the room to be dark enough for them to get some sleep.

(_)

As Pedro and Matthew went to sleep, elsewhere, across town, Balalaika and her group where in their cars, as they made their way to their destination. Which was to meet with a Severo, a local cartel lieutenant, and his own men, to talk about possible drug routes into Russian.

Unfortunately, the last forty minutes, or so, after Balalaika and her men had all got into their cars and left the hotel, had been very boring for Balalaika.

Inside the car she was in, Balalaika was sitting in the back seat, on the right side of the vehicle. To her left was her second in command, Boris.

As they head for their meeting with the cartel representatives, the highway was not so bad. But now, as they drove into town, on city streets themselves, to the meeting location, they were going as a much slower pace.

And Balalaika was one whom did not care for delays. Though, Balalaika was also professional enough not to show any outward signs of impatience, nor take out her internal frustrations on her men, whom she knew were completely loyal to her.

As Balalaika watched out her window, to her right side, as they passed through a shopping district, she saw numbers of people pass by.

But, two people walking down the street caught Balalaika’s eye, as she passed by them. A father and son. The father had slightly tanned skin, dark hair, with a mustache, that had mostly grayed with age. The son had much lighter skin, and blond hair. And son appear to be ten years of age, at most.

Boris noticed Balalaika staring out of the car window, as he asked, in russian, “Captain? Is there something the matter?”

Balalaika looked forward, towards the front of their vehicle, as she casually answered, in russian, “No, sergeant. Just some people that caught my eye, for a moment.”

Boris decided to change the subject, as he said, “Well, we will be at our meeting place, in a few minutes.”

Balalaika inquired, “Good. So, we are ahead of schedule?”

Boris replied, “Yes. By just over ten minutes.”

Balalaika ordered, “Well then, Sergeant. While the traffic has not been working for us today, we are going to arrive at this meeting early. So, I would like you to give a small bonus to which of our men whom had plotted out this route, and drove us here.”

Boris said, “Yes, Captain. I will do so, later today.”

Balalaika then went back to look out the window to her right, as she road in her car, in the convey, that was heading down the road, towards their scheduled meeting.

(_)

Five minutes later, in downtown Caracas, there was a nondescript, three story building. Across the two lane street was a private, mostly empty, parking lot.

Both the building, and the parking lot were secretly owned by Manisarera cartel, by two separate shell corporations. One for the building. And one for the parking lot.

While the parking lot appeared open, everyone around knew not to use it, without permission, or else.

The building itself had air conditioning that was set at a conformable temperature inside.

In a moderately sized room, in the front part of the building, on the second floor of the building, Severo and his men were waiting for the russian mafia representatives to show up.

The room they were inside of was nicely furnished. It has carpet rugs, laid through the wooden paneling floor. Near the windows, at the front of the room, was a nice large rectangular rug. On top of the rug, in the center was a rectangular, low handing coffee table. See three feet from the two long sided edges of the table were identical, cushioned couches, on the rug. And set three feet from the two short sided edges of the table, were two cushioned chairs.

On a far wall, near the door, was a few pot of coffee made, that sat on the hot eye of the coffee make, where it was brewed. Nearby, on the table, there were cups, spoons, sweeteners and a small teacup of milk.

Along the table, there were also small plates and napkins, by some boxes there were assortments some american style donuts and churros, also known as spanish donuts.

Though, a few of Severo's men had already had some of these small snacks.

There was also a large analogue clock hanging on the wall, above the coffer maker.

In addition, there were both stairs and a nice elevator leading up to the room.

There were six men in the room, counter Severo.

Severo was wearing a white business suit, with white leather shoes. He had a pistol in a shoulder holster, under his left armpit. And most of the men there were dressed in business suits, and shoes, were of similar type as Severo, only they were different colors.

At the moment, Severo was looking out one of the front windows, down at the street below, so he could watch for the russians mafia representatives to arrive.

Severo turned to look at the clock on the wall. A second later, he turned back to look out the window he was standing beside.

As Severo kept looking out of the window, he thought, 'They should be here, any minute. Russians, from what I understand, value punctuality. And after I am done with the russians, I will have to later meet with the chinese.'

'Still, on the matter of the Bloodhound, I am happy that Velasco said he would be more than happy to take a few men to go looking for the Bloodhound. And he also agreed that to call us, when he found her. So, that when we faced her, we could do so prepared, in full force. Just in case she is as dangerous as her reputation states.'

'And speaking of weapons, I don't like leaving our big guns in storage, in the building. But, there is too much on the line to ruin things by presenting ourselves as thugs, for first impression in both these meetings.'

'Also, I know next to nothing about those I am going to meet. It seems this test, by my superiors, is much more thorough than I first realized.'

A few seconds later, Severo saw several cars, in a clear convoy, turn into a nearby, nearly empty parking lot.

Severo thought, 'Well, I expected a meeting, not an army.'

Just then, another man walked up beside Severo. The man was of average height, and physical build, with tanned skin. He had long brown hair, that was tied in a ponytail. He also had a brown goatee on his chin. And unlike the rest of the men there, he was wear light brown pant, black leather belt, black dress shoes, and a short sleeved pink, button up short. The shirt was untucked, and hid the small pistol, in the small holster, on the right side of his belt.

The man looked out the window, in the direction Severo was looking. He calmly asked, in spanish, “Is going to be a problem?”

Severo recognized the man's voice, as he thought, 'Gustavo. The go-between for the capo and myself. He is here to see how well I handle these meetings. He will be leaving back for Columbia, right after these two meetings are over.'

Severo answered, in spanish, “No. It shouldn't be. We will just limit the number of them that can come up here. This is civil meeting, that both sides want. So, it should not be that much of an issue.”

Gustavo stated, “That is how I would handle it.”

Severo continued looking out the window, as he inquired, “Can I rest assured that you will not intervene in this meeting?”

Gustavo said, “I am here to see how you handle yourself. I plan to just stand back, and watch. If there is a firefight, I will fight, but only as a means of escape.”

Severo stated, “That will be fine.”

By then, across the street, in the parking lot, the cars had also parked, and peopled are starting to get of their vehicles. Though, there were no weapons visible, among them.

Gustavo questioned, “Do think they are all armed?”

Severo flatly replied, “Absolutely.”

Gustavo inquired, “Can your men take them in a fight?”

Severo then noticed the body language of some of the men, as they got organized.

Severo stated, “From the way some of them are standing, I get the sense that some, if now all of them, have military training. Also, they out number us. So, no chance in hell.” He mentally added, 'Even with the other dozen armed men I have in this building, we wouldn't stand a chance.'

Gustavo suggested, “Then, we will just be on our best behavior.”

Severo agreed, “My thoughts exactly. And we will have to conduct this meeting in english. Do you know that language?”

Gustavo cracked a grin, as he rhetorically asked, “How do you think I got this job?”

Severo responded, “Point taken. Though, please keep in mind only a few of my men know english.”

Gustavo mentioned, “I will. I also know some russian and chinese. But, I do not want these russians to know that.”

Severo requested, “That is nice to know. If either of the groups we are meeting give the order to kill us in their native language, let us know. I would like to take a few of them down, before they kill us.”

Gustavo commented, “If you hear me start shooting, you know it is time to go for your gun.”

Severo said, “I guess that would work well enough.”

Severo then saw that the men were gathering around the left side of a specific car. Though, the men were keeping their distance.

Severo then saw a man open the right back door of the car in question. The man in question was brown haired, fair skinned man, with a medium physical built. The man then shut his door, and walked around the back of the car, to where he was in front of the back right passenger door. He then opened the right back passenger door.

Severo then saw a slender woman, with long blond hair that was tied in a ponytail, whom was wearing a red dress, step out of the car. As the woman stood up onto the pavement of the parking lot, he thought, 'From her body language, she has a firm demeanor. And from the body language of the men down there, towards her, she is clearly their leader.'

Severo stated, “From what I am seeing. The woman with blond hair, with these men, is likely their leader. Is that going to be a problem with you?”

Gustavo commented, “As long as she is professional, I could care less. How about, yourself?”

Severo said, “From they way she is standing, and the reactions I see from the other, I don't think her gender will be a problem.”

Severo then turned, and walked away from the window, passed Gustavo. He came to a stop, in the middle of the room, as he turned towards his men.

Meanwhile, Gustavo continued looking out the window, as he noticed that the blond woman in question had look up at him, and he got a clear looked at her face, but he quickly turned around, before she could see his.

Gustavo turned to Severo, as he stated, “By the way, she has scars on her face. She looks like someone had fried the right side of her face.”

Severo turned to Gustavo, as he firmly stated, “And you will not mention her scars to her, nor to her men. Is that understood?”

Gustavo replied, “As I said, I intend to just stand back, and watch.”

Severo replied, “Good.” He then turned to his men in the room, whom were not looking at him. Severo stated, “The same goes for the rest of you. And tell the others, as well. We will not have any problems with these meetings.”

“Also, send a few men downstairs to greet them. Be polite. Though, tell them that they can only six people, of their choosing, can come up.”

One of his men asked, in spanish, “Do you want them frisked, before they are allowed up here?”

Severo answered, “No. They out number us. If we try to disarm them, we are likely going to just provoke them, and likely die. Plus, it is our superiors, on both sides, that want this meeting. And as I said, I don't want to any problems. Also, have someone make sure all the toilet seats, in the restrooms of this building, are lowered. And that is an order.”

As his men carried out his orders, Severo thought, 'I am not going to screw this meeting up over the possibility of a woman needing to take a piss.'

Severo then double check, to make sure the room was ready for the meeting. And he found that the room was a prepared as it was going to be.

(_)

A few minutes later, Severo, four of his men, and Gustavo were standing further into the meeting room, as they were facing Balalaika, Boris, and four other russian men, whom were closer to the entrance.

Severo noted the russians were looking at them, with calm, neutral expressions on their faces, and cold stares from their eyes.

Severo thought, 'I best get this meeting started.' He looked over at Balalaika, as he calmly said, in english, “Hello. My name is Severo. To whom I am I addressing?”

Balalaika looked at Severo, as she thought, 'So, he already realizes I am in charge of my group. That shows a bit of intelligence on his part. And he is using english, because we do not know spanish, and he likely doesn't our native language. And since is he is being polite. I might as well do so, as well... For now...'

Balalaika answered, in english, “You may address me as, Balalaika.”

Severo requested, in a polite tone of voice, “Well, Balalaika, let us sit down and talk. Also, you and your men are more than welcome to use the snack bar, or any other amenities were have at our dispose, here.”

Balalaika calmly responded, “That will not be necessary. We came talk about business. And that is what we will do. Then, we will leave.”

Severo thought, 'She is being curt, though not polite. So, I am still fine.'

Balalaika turned and walked over to the right couch at the front of the room. Boris followed right behind her.

As soon as Balalaika started walking towards the front of the room, Severo did so as well.

A few seconds later, Balalaika was the first to set down, and she did so on the right couch. Severo then saw down across the coffee table, on the left couch.

Boris walked up to stand behind Balalaika, as he faced Severo.

Meanwhile Gustavo walked up to stand behind Severo, as he faced the Balalaika and Boris.

Severo then looked around. He noticed, as he thought, 'My men are keeping to the side of the room, I am at. While, the russians are standing on the side of the room Balalaika is on. Now, that I am going to complain. If we do have a fight, this will decrease the chance of friendly fire.'

Severo then turned his head back to look at Balalaika face. He saw that Balalaika was looking be at him.

Balalaika was the first to speak, and what she said took Severo by surprise, as she insulted the cartel members, “So, tell me. Do you south american pigs actually know how to handle your weapons?”

Severo looked over at his men, as he quickly ordered, in spanish, “Let it slide. I will handle this.” He saw his men relax a bit. He thought, 'She is baiting us. And I cannot allow any us to do something foolish. Now, to respond in a manner she will not expect.'

Severo turned back to Balalaika, as he responded, in english, in a calm tone of voice, “If this meeting turns out well, then that will be of little consequence to you.” He thought, 'Alice was not joking about russians trying to be insulting. I am glad she warned me. Balalaika is clearly trying to goad a reaction from me. And I am not going to give her that benefit.'

Balalaika chuckled a little. She then complimented, “Well said.”

Severo decided to keep the conversation moving, as he inquired, “So, what do you wish to discuss first, concerning our business?”

Balalaika asked, “How can we be assured that you products are pure?”

Severo thought, 'She is going directly for the heart of the matter. That is not bad.'

Severo answered, “We prefer to move pure product because it less volume for more value And once you have paid us, and received the product, we do not care how you cut it.”

Balalaika responded, “I can appreciate the logistics of that. By the way, why did you not use the name of your product?”

Severo thought, 'I wonder if this is her first meeting like this. If that is the case, her superiors might be testing her, as well. Either way, I need to explain the situation to her.'

Severo stated, “It is a legal move. I am did not have you, nor your men searched. And you are not going to search us. Still, this could be a string, with someone wearing a wire. If so, it is more difficult to prosecute, even in a situation like this, if some details are intentionally left out of the conversation.”

Balalaika replied, with mild astonishment, “Ah... I will have to remember that tactic.” She thought, 'You are more intelligent and savvy than I first believed you were.'

Gustavo thought, 'Smart move, Severo. You are sidestepping a lot of problems. I can see why the capo is looking more closely at this man. And I thought I was coming here for different reasons.'

Severo mentioned, “Still, there is the matter how shipping will be handled. Where you want us to drop off, and you pick up. We are flexible. As long as we are paid. But the further we have to move it from the point of production, to the point of delivery, the more expensive it will be.”

Balalaika responded, “Of course. Though, you clearly have more experience in this area.” She thought, 'I want to know your thoughts on this, before I comment.'

Severo thought, 'I can tell she is being honest in her request. So, here is my chance to make a good impression on her.'

Severo explained, “If you wish us to ship our product to you, we were thinking of going by ship. While air is quicker, it is becoming riskier. Ships are a tried and truth method. There are dozens of ways to hide our products on cargo ships, in vast quantities. While, airplanes have weight issues, and limited space. Now, what we figure, the easiest way to get our product to your shores is by way of meeting your representatives in Vladivostok. It is a straight shot, across the Pacific, from South America, to Russia.”

Balalaika commented, “That is not a bad plan. That is a well populated area, with a very busy port. But, we do not wish to cross Siberia. There is too much risk.” She mentally added, 'Also, our organization has little control in that area. But, I am not going to tell you that.'

Severo said, “Going through inland can be more difficult, and a lot more expensive. Especially, if the produce is transported across multiple borders.”

Balalaika inquired, “It is possible to get the product though the Black sea?” She thought, 'That way we can get this cocaine directly to our territories, with little trouble.'

Severo calmly answered, 'It depends on how much you trust bribed egyptians and turks, one way. And how much you trust bribed spaniards, moroccans, and turks, the other way. I would not recommend either way.”

“Also, going inland from southern asia, or the middle east, is a very bad idea. You will either have to go through the Golden Triangle, or the Golden Crescent. And as you know, competitors are not very tolerate in this business.”

Balalaika thought, 'I guess I spoke too soon. Though, there are other options.' She suggested, “Perhaps we should cut the difference. And we meet each other halfway.”

Severo responded, “We do have some contacts, at various points, on the coasts of indochina.” He mentally added, 'One of those contacts even arranged my next meeting with the chinese.' He continued, “We could make the hand off in that area.”

Balalaika said, “That could be a possibility. But, we need to look at our other options.”

Severo commented, “Well, ice-cutters are expensive, and raise a lot of red flags. Though, either way, we are not going through the arctic sea. And navigating the Baltic sea, the Gulf of Finland, and the fjords, has its own challenges.”

Balalaika begrudgingly thought, 'He's right. And he has a firm grasp of geography.' She said, “I can see that. And I guess we will leave the travel routes to our superiors. Now, the matter of cost itself. We prefer to avoid U.S. cash. The yankee imperialists have become to obsessive over tracking each bill they have.”

Severo stated, “While we are not against doing business in cash that is not from the U.S. Rubles are not exactly welcome in this type of business, at this time. They are hard to move, and redeem. Especially, with the recent collapse of your nation.”

Balalaika responded, “That is understandable. Though, what about Soviet gold chervonets and South Africa gold krugerrands?”

Severo cracked a grin, as he said, “Gold, my dear, never goes out of style. And depending on the quality of those coins, I don't think my superiors would have a problem with that.”

Balalaika gave Severo a small smile, in return. She replied, “Good.”

Severo questioned, “Shall we discuss the specifics of our deal? Such as how much in quantity will you need, per delivery? And how regular your deliveries will be. This is to give us an idea have how much of our production we will have to adjust to your regular orders.”

Balalaika calmly answered, “Unfortunately, no. This was just the first meeting. And we only wanted to know the basics of what you were offering. But, you clearly are open to having working with us. And you have demonstrated you have the knowledge to trade with us. Which was the whole point of this meeting.”

Severo replied, “Of course.” He thought, 'Those questions were a long shot, anyway.'

Balalaika thought, 'While I am here, I might as well ask.' She inquired, “By the way.
Is there a decent place to have a drink in this town? Somewhere I can take my men, in which we will not attract unwanted attention?”

Severo answered, “I know just the place. It is on the west end of the city, near the Río Guaire river.” He then gave them directions to the bar. Along with the bar's name.

When Severo has finished giving Balalaika directions to the bar, Balalaika said, “Thank you for the directions.” She then stood up, from the couch she had been sitting in.

Severo stood up a second later.

Balalaika commented, “We will be contacting our superiors. And they will be contacting yours.”

Severo replied, “That will be fine.”

Balalaika turned to her men, as she stated, in russian, “Gentlemen, this meeting has concluded on good terms. We shall now leave.”

Severo looked over at Gustavo.

Gustavo was looking at Severo, and he gave him a small smile, and a nod. Meaning everything was still alright.

Severo turned back to look at the russians, as thought, 'Good. She didn't just give the order to have us killed.'

Severo turned to look over at a cartel member standing near the door. When he saw the man look back at him, he gave him a simple nod. The cartel member understand, as he walked over to the door, opened it, and held it open for the russians.

Severo and the other cartel members then watched as the russians walk out of the room, with Balalaika being the third of the six person group, to walk through, into the hallway.

A few seconds after the russian left, the cartel member holding the door gently shut it, and turned to Severo.

Gustavo commented, “That went well.”

Severo turned to Gustavo, as he agreed, in spanish, “Yes. It did.” He then looked in front of himself, as he left out a deep breath. He thought, 'One meeting down. One meeting to go... Which should start in around...' He looked over at the clock, as he concluded his thought, 'An hour... Now, to check on things.'

Severo then walked to the window. He watched as the russians, including Balalaika, exit the building. With them soon rejoining the group in that stayed in the parking lot.

A minute later, Severo watched them all get into the cars. With them then driving off into the distance, in a convoy.

With one meeting now officially concluded, Severo then began to mental prepared for his next meeting.

(_)

An hour later, Daiyu, River, and Lee, appeared an empty alleyway, in downtown Caracas, Venezuela.

While all three of them looked around, River pocketed her reality device, as she casually said, “Well, here we are.”

Lee looked at River and Daiyu, as she asked, “Yea, River. But, where, and when, exactly is here, River? You didn't exactly tell us, when you got the hit on their location, on your tracking tablet. Nor, did you tell us later, when we decided to teleport after Pedro and Matthew.”

River turn to the other two women, as she answered, “I felt like you two need a surprised. And to answer your question, we are in an alleyway, in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. The exact date is October nineteenth, nineteen ninety-one. The time is sometime in the afternoon. Pedro and Matthew came in the morning, but they were in the slums. Though, it didn't take a genius they were heading for downtown. So, I bumped us here a few hours after them, to give them time to get to the city.”

Daiyu looked at her two lovers, as she commented, “That could be good, or bad, for us. If they already left, we will be searching the city for nothing.”

Lee disagreed, in a polite tone of voice, “No. They would not have left, yet. Pedro always heads somewhere for a reason. He won't just up and leave. He will stay for a day. At least to get some rest.”

River agreed, “True. Pedro always goes somewhere for a reason. And they could have just crashed at a hotel to get some rest.”

Daiyu pointed out, “If they went to a hotel, we won't find them on the street.”

River conceded, “True. But, even if we don't find them by tonight, we can just check my tracking device. And if they have left. We will leave. Or, we will wait for them to leave. Within a reasonable time frame. Besides, I have always wanted to check this city out on my own. Roberta, Fabiola, Garcia, all stated this was an interesting town to live in, and around.”

Daiyu confirmed, “Yes. They do occasionally say that.”

River commented, “And when we visit them, we never really left the Lovelace plantation for long. This will be a good chance to check this city out of our own leisure. Though, I find it odd we are still in the Black Lagoon reality we just came from. I wonder why, Pedro and Matthew did not leave your home reality, Daiyu?”

Daiyu responded, “I am not sure, myself. It could be accidental, or intentional.”

Lee theorized, “Well, we can guess that Pedro is the one with the reality device, and even though he read my stories, and knows all of us. He is still new at this. This was likely an accident. He could have forgot to think of the reality he wanted to go to. And instead he thought of the general place and time. That is why, with this jump, he only went a few months in the future of the same reality. And why they ended up in the slums of this city.”

Daiyu stated, “That is a very plausible theory. Though, there is something familiar about today’s' date, but I cannot put my finger on it.”

Lee commented, “Maybe because we jumped exactly seven months into the future, from March Nineteenth, to October Nineteenth.”

River complimented, “Good point.”

Daiyu shrugged, as she replied, “That could be it. It has just been so long, I am not sure, myself.”

River stretched her arms a bit. As she dropped her hands back to her sides, said. “Well, either way, I am glad we got some rest, and something to eat, before we jumped here.”

Lee agreed, “Yea. And that shower helped matters, a lot.”

Daiyu said, “I will agree with that.”

Lee inquired, “So, have either of you been to this city before, for a fair amount of time? It sounds like while you visit the Lovelace home, you haven't really seen much outside that estate.”

River answered, “That would be correct. And I am surprised you don't want to come with us to visit the Lovelace household, when they invite us over.”

Lee commented, “I would like to keep my distance from those three, for very obvious reasons.”

River giggled a little, and Daiyu cracked a grin at Lee's reaction.

As River calmed down, she replied, “That is understandable.”

Daiyu stated, “I have been to this city few times, during this time period. So, it is good that I am in my female form.”

River agreed, “Yes. We don't want someone to mistake you, for you past self. That could cause you past self some problems”

Daiyu replied, “Exactly. And we need to avoid bumping into the past selves of anyone we know. Especially, those of the Lovelace household.”

Lee commented, “That goes without saying. Though, if you have been here, in such a matter, you should have a good lay of the land.”

Daiyu stated, “My memory is a bit vague on this city, but I can get us around.”

Lee said, “Good. There are some sights I have read about, that are in this city, that I would like to see.”

Daiyu responded, “I would be more than happy to show you around. And all of us know spanish. So, talking to the locals will not be a problem.”

Lee replied, “Yes. River, here, is a good teacher.”

Daiyu agreed, “You are correct about that.”

River smiled at both of Daiyu and Lee, as she kindly said, “Thank you.”

Lee and Daiyu both returned River's smile, as they replied, almost in unison, “You're welcome.”

River commented, “Well, if we haven't found Pedro and Matthew by tonight, we could get a drink at a local bar. That is if, you know any bars here, Daiyu?”

Daiyu answered, “I remember going to a bar, here, that was quiet fun to go to. Though, I cannot exactly remember what was fun about it. But, I do remember how to get there.”

Lee said, “I am okay with that.”

River stated, “So am I.”

Lee asked, “Now Daiyu, which way to do we go, in our search for those two?”

Daiyu stated, “Since we cannot cover this town in one day. We will head for the west end of the town, because that is where the bar is. To be exact, the bar is by a river that snakes through the town.”

River said, “Okay. Lead the way.”

Daiyu grinned, as she replied, “With pleasure?”

Daiyu then looked both ways, down the alleyway, they were in. She saw that the street one way was busier than the other. And she started walking toward the busier street, and then she turned down a sidewalk, with River and Lee following right behind her.

(_)

Five minutes later, inside the second floor meeting room, in the building that Manisarera Cartel, Severo had a sense of deja fu, as he stood by the same front window, as he did before, while he looked out of the window, and towards the street below. He, his men, and Gustavo, were waiting for the chinese to finally show up.

As before, Gustavo walked up beside Severo, as he looked out of the window, as well, while he said, in spanish, “I did not expect the chinese to be running late. From experience, they are usually very punctual. Do you know anything about the chinese we are about to meet.”

Severo continued looking at the window, down at the street below, as he calmly answered, in spanish, “Well, our superiors did not tell me much about this chinese whom are coming. But, they stated the name of our go-between, in our cartel, whom originally started the ball rolling on this meeting.”

Gustavo asked, “Who is the contact?”

Severo answered, “A man named, Abergo.”

Gustavo continued looking out the window, as he stated, “Ah... Abergo. Then, I can guess we are about to meet a man know as Mister Chang. Along with some of his men.”

Severo inquired, “Who is this, Chang?”

Gustavo responded, “That is Mister Chang to those that are not his friends. And he is a chinese man. He the head of his section of a Triad based out of Hong Kong. He is the big fish in a small pond, in a fishing town known as Roanapur, in Thailand.”

Severo guessed, “A smuggling port for the Golden Triangle?”

Gustavo replied, “Yes.”

Severo thought, 'So, this Mister Chang has some experience under his belt. Unlike Balalaika, whom I could tell was not use to this type of meeting. But, she put on such a well done front, I knew better than to call her on it. I need to know more about this man.'

Severo inquired, “What does Mister Chang look like?”

Gustavo answered, “Mister Chang has black hair. He is in great shape. He is in his late thirties, early forties. And he likes to wear a formal business suit, including a long coat. Also, he prefers to wear sunglasses, over eyes, even inside.”

Severo replied, “Okay.' He thought, 'I won't mention the coat, or sunglasses. Now, to the next important question.' He asked, “How dangerous is Mister Chang and his men?”

Gustavo stated, “Very dangerous. But, Mister Chang is very friendly and polite. If we are civil, we should be fine.”

Severo recalled what Alice told him this morning, as he thought, 'So, Alice was right. But, Gustavo clearly knows a lot about the situation. How is that?' He looked over at Gustavo, as he questioned, “How do you know all this?”

Gustavo continued looking out the window, as he answered, “I know personally Abergo. I won't say we were friends, but we respect each other. And we occasionally talk to each other over the phone. He told me all this. Though, I am surprised that I was not informed that it was Abergo who was the go-between.”

Severo looked back out of the window, and towards the street, as he stated, “Maybe the capo doesn't know you both talk to each other.”

Gustavo conceded, “That is possible. And this is something I would like to keep on the quiet. Now, that I think about it.”

Severo inquired, “Why?”

Gustavo replied, “Simple. One time, Abergo, offered me a job, as his second in command. If our superiors knew that we talked to each other, they would likely prevent me from ever having that job.”

Severo asked, “So, are you going to take him up on his offer?

Gustavo responded, “I like to keep my options open. The only reason I would take the job would be if these meetings were somehow screwed up. Which I doubt is going to happen. Besides, I prefer to work closer to our homeland. But, at least the weather is pretty much the same there, as it is here.”

Severo agreed, “Yes. There is that.”

Gustavo stated, “But, if something really big did happen, that I could be partly blamed for, I would be on the first plane to Thailand, in heartbeat. Still, I am not sure about Abrego.”

Severo questioned, “Why is that?... What is he like?”

Gustavo said, “Abrego likes to think with his pants. And he has a reputation of being a bad influence on those he works for.”

Severo agreed, “That is bad.”

Just then, they saw several black, four door car, drive up the street below, and into the nearly empty parking lot.

Gustavo commented, “Looks like another army.”

Serevo replied, “Yes. Let's hope our luck holds.”

Over the next minute, Severo and Gustavo watched as men filed out of the car and got organized. The men were all wearing black business suits.

A minute later, Severo saw someone open the back door of one of the cars. And a man, wearing sunglasses, in a long coat, with a white scarf draped around the long coat, get out of the car.

Severo watched the body language of the men, in the parking lot, as he thought, 'That man, in the coat, is likely Chang.... Well, Mister Chang. And I have to admit that he and his men are snappy dressers.”

Gustavo commented, “That must be Mister Chang.”

Severo said, “Yes. And from the body language of the others. I don't think many of them are military.” He thought, 'Also, I will let Mister Chang introduce himself. I don't want him to know that I already know who he is.'

Gustavo responded, “That is good. Though, I know Chang use to be a cop, and he is dangerous with his pistols.”

Severo turned to Gustavo, as he asked, “Pistols? As in plural?”

Gustavo looked at Severo, as he answered, “Yes. Sorry, I didn't mention it early. But, Mister Chang like to use two pistols at once. And he is very good at it.”

Severo inquire, with a bit of disbelief in his tone of voice, “Like from a chinese mafia action movie?”

Gustavo answered, “Yes. From what Abergo told me. Yes. Exactly like that.”

Severo responded, with a bit of surprise in his tone of voice, “Damn. This day gets stranger by the minute.”

Severo fully turned away from the window, and towards the four other men in the room.

A second later, Gustavo did the same, as he looked at Severo's men.

Severo ordered, “Same plan as before. Send someone downstairs to politely tell them that only six of them can come up here. The rest can wait downstairs. And do not search them. Only this time, have some left the toilet seats.” He thought, 'If Mister Chang has to take a piss, will not have him wonder about us.'

None of his men laughed, nor did Gustavo, as one of Severo's men in the room when downstairs to carried out his orders.

(_)

Five minutes later, Severo, Gustavo, and two of Severo's men watched as the door to their room open.

Two of Severo's men walked out in front, and they came to a stop, further into the room, by the two other members of Severo's group. The two men in question then turned to face the door.

The next person to come their the open door was Chang. He was followed by five of his men. The last man in Chang's group closing the door behind him.

As Chang and his men came to a stop, and looked at the group of men in front of them, Chang stated, in english, “I am Mister Chang. Who is in charge?”

Severo thought, 'So, he is up front and direct. I like that.' He said, in english, “I am, Mister Chang. My name is Severo.”

Chang looked over at Severo, as he commented, “Well Severo, I apologize for being late, but traffic was difficult.”

Severo thought, 'It doesn't matter if he is telling the truth, or not. We need to keep the conversation moving.' He calmly said, “Of course. Things like that happen. Also, you and you men are welcome to the snack bar on the wall.”

Chang turned to his men, as he said, in chinese, “You may have some coffee and snacks from the table.” he looked back over to Severo as he said, in english, “Thank you. I am sure some of my men will enjoy a small snack. Or, at least some coffee.”

Severo responded, “Yes. Coffee can help a lot.” He then gestured towards the couches and chairs, as he said, “Now, let's sit down and talk.”

Chang replied, “Absolutely.”

Chang then started walking towards the couches, chairs and table, from one angle, as Severo approached the furniture from a different angle.

As they two men continued to walk towards the furniture, two of the five chinese men went over to the snack table, to get coffee and donuts.

A few second later, both men sat down in couches, across from each other, with the rectangular coffee table between them.

Severo then looked around, and he noticed a much more relax atmosphere in the room, than when the russians came. The room was not segregated between groups, like it was when the russians were there. Instead, the cartel men and the chinese men were scattered across the room. Though, everyone was paying attention to Chang, and himself.

Severo thought, 'This is good. This makes the situation more relaxing, and conductive towards doing business. Even Gustavo is not standing behind me. I hope this is a good omen.' He looked back at Chang, whom he saw as looking back at him, as he continued his thoughts, 'And I wonder...'

Severo calmly inquired, “So, where would you like to start? I have the feeling this not the first time you have had this type of meeting.”

Chang responded, “You would be correct. I am doing this as a favor, for several people. And as of right now, I am just testing the waters.”

Severo thought, 'Good. He has experience. That will help both of us.' He said, “That is a good. We will talk about transport of product. And type of payment. We will leave the volume of product, and exact delivery routes for later negotiators.”

Chang agreed, “That will be fine.”

Severo asked, “So, where do you wish to transport our products too?”

Chang stated, “Various places in, and around, southeast Asia. From China, to India, to Indonesia and Malaysia. We have contacts all over these region. And while heroin is lucrative. It is like everything else. No everyone buys the same type of product. So, those that don't want the heroin, we will offer cocaine powder, and rock cocaine.”

Severo thought, with a bit of annoyance, 'There no point in now in requesting him to mention our products by name. Though, from what Gustavo told me. Chang use to be a cop. But, I doubt this is a sting. Since this set up by, I believe the man's name is Abrego, one of our cartel members. And as such, this is a legitimate contact between our two organizations. And if this is a sting, Mister Chang will either be painfully killed by our superiors, or his superiors.'

'Now, either way, it is my job to keep this conversation moving to the point, where we agree our two organizations will have further talks on the matter.'

Severo said, “We can process it either way. Though, rock cocaine is a more expensive, because it require further refinement of the finished product. And, we don't cut our own products, because we don't want to be accused of cheating our customers. Though, once you have our product, you don't care what you do with the product, once payment and delivery has been done. Also, we like to ship the product pure and uncut, for volume to cost reasons.”

Chang thought, 'Yes. Smaller size, less weight.' He asked, “Of course. And what type of shipping do you prefer?”

Severo answered, “We prefer to ship by boat. It is easier. But, the further we go, the high the price. To save on money, we are willing to meet you halfway.” He mentally reflected, 'And if we get both these deals, in the way they want. We might be able to deliver to the chinese and russians, on the same boat, at two different points, in the south chinese sea. In which case, we will charge them the same standard fare, but we will pocket the difference in expenses.'

Chang said, “By boat is fine. Also, can even provide harbors, documents, and assurances that the local officials will interfere with our transactions.” He thought, 'That is why I control Roanapur in the first place.'

Severo thought, 'I second thought. If he is will to offer all that. We will have to cut him a discount.' He stated, “Our prices for transport will go way down for you, if you can provide all that.”

Chang mentally reflected, 'That is what I thought. Now, for payment options.' He offered, “That is good to hear. And when it comes to payment, we can offer, Hong Kong dollar,
Chinese Renminbi, Taiwanese Yuan, British Pounds, and even U.S. currency. It is all up to you.”

Severo cracked a grin, as he complimented, “I admire someone whom offers me options. Still, on the form of payment. I will have to take that up with my superiors.”

Chang replied, “Of course. I will have to do that same.”

Severo happily though, 'I think we can do business.'

Chang inquired, “I guess there is only one thing left to ask. Where can man, and his men, find a good place to get a drink in this town.” He thought, 'Those places I have already been too, are either to small for all my men. Or, were disappointments. So, I might as well ask a local this time, for a recommendation or two.'

Severo thought, 'I might as well send him to the same bar as Balalaika. It is the only bar in town that I know of, which does not care if a bunch of foreigners show up to get something to drink. And I doubt the two groups will cause much trouble. They clearly like to keep to themselves. In all likelihood, one group of them will take on side of the room, and the other group will take the other side.'

Severo said, “Well, I do know this place. It is on the west end of town, by the river.” He then gave Chang directions to the bar.

When Severo was finished tell him how to get to the bar, Chang replied, “Thank you. I look forward to continuing this conversation at a later date.”

Severo replied, “So do I.”

Chang then got up from his seat. He turned to his men, as said, in chinese, “Time to leave, men. And we have a place to party tonight.”

Severo noticed a couple of Chang's men chuckled a little, for a few seconds.

Severo then got up, from his seat, as well. He, his men, and Gustavo then watched as Chang and men men started walking towards the door. Those chinese men that were at the snack table, set down their cups and plates, as they headed for the door.

When the first chinese man reached the door, he opened the door, but he did not step through it, and into hallway.

Instead, the chinese man wait there, and Severo then watched as Chang was the first to exit the room.

As Severo noticed this, he thought, 'First one in. First one out. This Mister Chang clearly prefers to lead from the front in so many ways. I admire this. I think we will be able to do business with him. Very good business, indeed.'

A few seconds later, the cartel members watched as the last of the chinese men left, with the last one shutting the door behind him.

A few moments passed by, the Gustavo turned to Severo, as he stated, in spanish, “That was well done... Both those meetings were very well done. Now, if you can pull the hat trick, and take care of the Bloodhound, I think you will likely have a very bright future in our organization.”

Severo turned to Gustavo, as he said, in spanish, “I won't let you down.”

Gustavo calmly pointed out, “It is not me that you have to please, but our superiors. But, rest assured that you are on the path to doing so.” He then looked the room for a few seconds, before turning back to Severo, as he said, “Good day, gentlemen.”

Severo thought, 'Yea. It figured you would leave right after your job is done. And I hope I can pull this off, as well. But, I am not going to let you know that I have some self-doubts about the situation. The Bloodhound reputation states that she is very dangerous, and I am not stupid enough to think that taking her down is a sure thing. Even with all my men helping me do so.'

Severo then walked over one of the front windows, and he watched Chang and the rest of the chinese men leave his building, getting to their cars, and leave.

While Severo walked to the window, to watch Chang and his men leave, Gustavo had turned from Severo, and walked to the door leading to the hallway. Gustavo then opened it, walked through it, and close the door behind him. After which, he headed downstairs, and to his personal car, which was parked behind the building, in the opposite direction of the parking lot that the russians and chinese had just used.

This was in case he had to make a quick exit and getaway. Which, fortunately, he did not have to do.

After Gustavo got into his car, he planned to drive to meet with his superiors, whom were in another part of the nation of Venezuela. With him personally informing them of what had transpired at the meetings they had just had.

(_)

An hour later, on the west end of Caracas. On the sidewalk with several people coming and going. Beside a moderately busy one land street, Benny, Revy, and Dutch were walking beside each other.

While they were all clearly foreigners, the locals paid them no mind, except for walking around them.

As the three adults continued walking, Benny was close to the buildings, to his right, by about six feet. To Benny's left was Revy. To Revy's left was to Dutch. With the street being to Dutch's left. With Dutch being able a yard away from curb of the street, with the one lane traffic they were beside, coming from behind them.

The reason Revy was in the center of the group was not because Dutch and Benny were worried about her. They were worried about everyone else, and how a simple brush on the shoulder, by a passerby might set off Revy's hair-trigger temper.

Though, the afternoon had been very productive for them. After a very tasty lunch, in La Guaira, they retrieved the supplies they could from around the port area. Including fuel for the engines of the boat.

Once those supplies were back on their PT boat, and secure, inside the boat, which was locked, they quickly found a taxi driver that would take them to Caracas. They reached the west part of Caracas an hour and ten minutes later.

Once they paid the taxi driver for the fare, which was not as much as Dutch was expecting. And while the language barrier was a minor difficulty, with the three adults not knowing spanish, and their main language being english. They were able to find people to give them directions, in english, to a shop that Dutch needed to go to for parts for their boat.

Though, the three adults did have to spend about half an hour, walking around, until they found the shop in question, that sold the small parts that Dutch needed for the engines, and other part of the boat.

With those items paid for, and the items stored safely in the pockets of Dutch's flack jacket. And once that errand was done, the three of them decided to do some window shopping, before they got some supper, and when to the bar that Dutch's port master friend had recommended.

As they walked, and looked around, they carried on casual conversations, on the weather, and what items they see in the windows that caught there it.

Then, Dutch decided to change the subject to another point of interest. A point of interest in the PT boat they were using.

As they continued walking, Dutch asked, “So, what do you two think we should name our boat?” He thought, 'We have yet to have a name for our boat. And there is not a name on it. Plus, the only documents we could find in the boat, on its history had the boat listed the boat by its serial number, with no name. So, we might as well get this over with.'

Revy stated, with excitement in her tone of voice, “How about, the torpedo?... No... No... How about the rip roarer?... Or even, the cutlass?...”

Dutch thought, 'Oh. I should have known the can of worms that I was opening with that question. I need to let Revy down, lightly. Her making a scene here, would be bad for all three of us, especially since she is the only one of us that has a gun.'

Dutch delicately said, “While cutlass sounds nice, I don't care for the other two. Besides which, I am looking for name for the boat that is a little less aggressive.”

Revy shrugged, as she casually said, “Well, you asked.”

Dutch thought, with relief, 'Good. She took my comments in stride.'

Benny suggested, “How about we call our ship, Lagoon?”

Revy inquired, “Lagoon? Where did you get the idea for that name?”

Dutch requested, “Yes. I would like to hear your logic behind this name, as well?”

Benny explained, “After the book, the Blue Lagoon. None of us can go home again, so we might as well be searching for our own paradise.”

Revy let out a laugh. She then flatly stated, “If you are looking for paradise in this world, you're not going to find it. Also, I saw the movie. It was shit.”

Dutch rubbed his chin, and his goatee, with his right hand, as he said, “I don't know, Revy. I kind of like the name. It is a positive name. And the word, lagoon, makes me think of relaxing and fishing. And given our situation, we need to be as positive in our thinking as possible.” He then dropped his right hand back to his side.

Revy shrugged, as she replied, “Alright. I can live with it.”

Dutch replied, “Then, Lagoon, it is.”

Benny said, “Thanks, Dutch.”

Revy questioned, “So, where are we going to go to eat tonight? Cause I really don't want to just eat from a street vendor.”

Dutch suggested, “Well, since we are in latin america, let us go to an authentic latin restaurant, that has a casual atmosphere.”

Benny said, “I am okay with that, as long as the food is not too spicy.”

Revy stated, “I have a cast iron stomach. So, I can live with latin food. As long as I can have a beer with my meal.”

Dutch said, “I will see what I can do.”

Revy commented, with a bit of excitement, and eagerness, in her tone of voice, “Good. And then we will head to the bar?”

Dutch sighed, as he mentally reflect, 'Revy, sometimes you act like a child with a one track mind.' He stated, in a slightly deflated tone of voice, “Yes. We will then go to the bar.”

Revy happily replied, “Thanks Dutch.”

Dutch responded, in a casual tone of voice, “Don't mention it.”

Dutch thought, 'I would bet real money that girl comes from a long line of alcoholics. Maybe from both sides of her family. And with that red hair, and given the fact she said she is from New York City, it doesn't take a genius to realize she is part irish. It also explains her temper... Though, I am not going to say a word of this to her. It is just not worth pissing her off. Especially, since she has natural fighting skills, and she is willing to work for me.'

'Still, a chinese and a irish blend... Now, that is a strange mix... It sounds like a coffee recipe gone wrong.'

Dutch cracked a grin at his private joke, as he, Revy, and Benny, then continued walking down the sidewalk, as they continued their window shopping for a few hours. Then, they decided to get some supper. After which, they headed to the bar that was recommend to them.

(_)

Later that evening, right before dark, at their old fashioned hotel, Pedro and Matthew were awaken at eight PM, on the dot, by the alarm clock set on the nightstand, between their two beds.

As they got up, they found they were rested. They then got dressed and ready. After which, they went to a nearby convenience store. At the store, they bought combs, razors, shaving cream, deodorant, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.

Pedro and Matthew then returned to the hotel, and they quickly used those items to look a little better, and small a little better. This including them shaving the five o'clock shadows on their faces. With neither of them getting any nicks on their faces, nor shaving cream on their clothing.

When they were finished, Pedro was able to place all those items into the various pockets of his long coat.

Then, after a quick bite to eat at a restaurant near the hotel, they took a taxi, from a company that was recommended by the questionable hotel clerk, to the bar that the same clerk had told them about.

Pedro and Matthew reached the bar, on the west end of Caracas, it was dark, and just after Nine PM, local time.

Pedro then paid the taxi driver, and both men got out of opposite sides of the back of the taxi.

While both men walked a little close to the bar, the taxi drove away, down the street.

The to men came to a stop, side by side, with each other, as they look at the bar, with Matthew to Pedro's right side. The outside of the front of the bar had windows, and a double-door entrance. The exterior had large, paneled windows, and wooden paneling on the walls. All in all, it looked like an average bar.

Matthew said, “Well, here we are.”

Pedro stated, “Let's head inside.”

Matthew replied, “Yes. Let's do that.”

Both men then walked into the bar.

A few seconds later, after they enter the bar, they came to a stop. Pedro was standing to Matthew's left side, as they look around the room. And what they saw surprised them.

Matthew muttered, “You got to be kidding me.”

Pedro quietly said, “I don't believe this.”

It was all the two men could do, not gape at who they saw, as they continued looking around them.

While the bar itself was just wooden paneling, wooden floors, wood round tables, wooden chairs, wooden bar counter, with wooden stools in front of the counter. Though, the bottoms of the chairs and stools were cushions. Also, there was no music playing on the room.

It was whom they saw that surprised them.

Beside the bartender, behind the bar counter, whom they did not know, they recognized a few faces.

Across the room, in front of them, was the bar counter. To the right side of the bar counter, they saw three adults sitting down. But, even with their backs turned, Pedro and Matthew could easily tell whom the three adults were, by their clothing, skin tones, hair color and hair styles, or lack there of, gave them away.

The member to the right of the three person group was a slender woman with tanned skin. With her black untucked shirt, blue jeans, and her red hair in a ponytail, they both could tell that the woman was Revy.

To Revy's right was a slightly taller man with fair skin and a blond ponytail, which meant the man had to be Benny.

To Benny's right was a larger dark skinned man whom was bald. The man wear a green flack jacket and green pants. Which men that man was Dutch.

And that was not all.

While the path to the bar counter was clear, from the entrance was a straight line, with no tables or chairs between the two points in the room, there were several tables and chairs on both sides of the room. From the entrance to the bar counter, with the large rounded tables went four rows deep, and six rows long. With each table having six chairs to it.

And except for a couple of tables by the door, near Matthew and Pedro, all of them were full.

To the right side of the room was practically the entire membership of Hotel Moscow, including Balalaika and Boris. With Balalaika wearing her usual red dress. The only woman in the entire group was Balalaika. And for obvious reasons, the only two people that Pedro and Matthew recognized was Balalaika and Boris.

And on the left side of the room was Chang and his men, sitting at various tables. Chang in wearing his usual clothing, including his black long coat. And Chang was wearing sunglasses inside. Though, Hotel Moscow did outnumber Chang's men, but not by much.

All of those the people sitting down had something to drink in front of them. Some had bottles of beer, others where using glasses, so they could share larger bottles of alcoholic beverages.

Fortunately, Pedro and Matthew also noticed that no one else in the bar had paid them any attention, except for a couple of quick glances, from a few of Chang's men, and a few members of Hotel Moscow. But, Pedro and Matthew noticed that those men quickly when back to talking amongst themselves.

Matthew whispered, “Half away across the multiverse, in the past, on another continent, and we still end up in a bar with these people.”

Pedro quietly said, “I know. I believe we are learning a valuable lesson. That no matter How far we go, we are still going to wind up being stuck with these people.”

Matthew softly replied, “That is not very comforting.”

Pedro whispered, “I agree. We have to be real careful what we do right now. And what we say. If we are not careful, we could screw up existence itself.”

Matthew softly recommended, “We could just turn around and walk out of the bar.”

Pedro quietly replied, in a slight sarcastic tone of voice, “Like fate would let us do that.”

Matthew softly conceded, “Good point. Still, if we talk to each other, we need to avoid using our names here. We need some quick aliases.”

Pedro quietly suggested, “How about I go as the Mexican? And you are the Lawyer?” He thought, 'It would be extremely unwise to mention that I am a cop to this crowd.'

Matthew whispered, “That could work. Still, I think the aliases are too simplistic.”

Pedro softly commented, “It is not like we have time to come up with something better.”

Matthew quietly agreed, “True. So, we will do what you suggested.”

Pedro softly replied, “Good.”

Matthew quietly pointed out, “And we cannot call any of them by their names. That will raise way too many questions.”

Pedro softly said, “You are absolutely correct.”

Matthew whispered, “Also, is it just me, or does Revy's clothing seem a little more modest than what she wears back home? I mean she doesn't even have her shoulder holsters, and cutlasses.”

Pedro quickly commented, “I have a feeling most of these people haven't stepped into their own just yet.”

Matthew softly replied, “I agree. Fortunately, everyone is keeping to themselves.”

Pedro whispered, “Yes. And that is the only reason I have not yet turned around and run out the door.”

Matthew quietly teased, “What happened to your belief in fate?

Pedro softly replied, “I am willing to play fate's game, unless it is a suicide game.”

Matthew whispered, “Good point. So, which one is Melvin?”

Pedro softly answered, “I am not sure myself. But, while I suspect that Melvin was an alias, I know he dyed his hair blond, and as Melanie, she has brown hair. Also, if you look that way, only use your eyes.” He mentally added, 'And if we returned back home, I am sure to ask if Melanie has a picture of herself, as himself, when he was younger. To show me.'

Matthew quietly said, “Got you.” He then used his eyes looked over to his right, at the members of Hotel Moscow. After a couple of seconds, he found who he was looking for. He quietly commented, “Found him. Two tables down, six o'clock from Ms blond.”

Pedro understood Matthew's message, as used his eyes to first look at Balalaika, then quickly down two tables closer to the entrance. A second later, Pedro quickly recognized Melvin. While he was much younger, had a clean shaven face, and he had black hair, he shared the same basic facial features as old Melvin, and young Melanie. Like all of the men around him, he was wearing usually.

Pedro watched Melvin drink a swallow from his bottle of beer, as he talked to his friends at the table, in russian. Pedro could tell that Melvin was happy at the moment.

Pedro thought, 'Looks like I won't need that picture. And so Melvin, that was what you looked like when you were younger. You look good. Unfortunately, we will not meet before for a number of decades for you. But, it is good to see that even at this point in your life, you had happy moments to enjoy.'

Pedro and Matthew then used their eyes to look around some more, as Matthew quietly said, “You know. Speaking of fate. I get the feeling that fate is trying to tell us something, and we should thrown in the towel.”

Pedro softly commented, “Maybe. I mean, right now, this place is kinda of like the unholy last supper.”

Matthew quickly agreed, “You got that right. I am so happy you helped show me how to be genre savvy. That knowledge has helped keep me alive, so far.”

Pedro softly responded, “You're welcome. So, if we cannon leave, we have to walk further in. We cannot stand around, by the entrance, much longer, without attracting the wrong attention.”

Matthew whispered, “I agree. Let's head to the middle of bar counter. We don't want those at the counter to think we are avoiding them.”

Pedro quickly agreed, “Good idea.”

Matthew quietly suggested, “Also, while I think the fate... Multiverse... Whatever... Whomever, is telling us to give up. I think fate is also handing us a golden opportunity here. Save for the russians and Chang... This is clearly long before any of these guys became hardcore, super-badasses. Meaning we could get a little payback here.”

Matthew's lips slight curled, with wicked mischief, as he softly quietly continued, “So, for once, let us live a little dangerously. We have the advantage here. We know them, while they don't know us. I suggest a contest. The craziest thing one can do without revealing the truth winner gets free dinner from the loser.”

Pedro cracked a grin, as he thought, with mild excitement, 'Now, that is a contest. And if you cannot buy me dinner. I will just let you cook it for me.' He softly stated, “You're on.”

Pedro and Matthew then casually walked, side by side, towards the bar counter, with Matthew to Pedro's right.

A few seconds later, they reached the front of the bar counter. Both men avoided looking at those around them, as they looking in front of themselves, at the shelves of alcoholic bottles that lined the wall.

Pedro asked, in a normal tone of voice, “Do you want something to drink?”

Matthew responded, in a normal tone of voice, “I would like a bottle of dark rum, with three glasses.”

Pedro looked over at Revy, he then turned back to Matthew, as he said, “Good idea.” He quietly inquired, “Is this part of our bet?”

Matthew answered, “Yes.”

Pedro thought, 'I wonder what you have in mind?'

The bartenders came up to Pedro and Matthew, from across the bar counter. He looked at the two men, as he flatly asked, in english, “What do you want?”

Pedro looked over at the man across from him. He used his right hand to reach into a pocket that had a roll of twenty dollar U.S. bills. He then thumbed out two twenties and pulled the two bills out from his pocket. Next, he set the two twenty dollar bills onto the counter between them.

Pedro saw the bartender look down at the money, then back up at his face.

Pedro thought, 'Good. I have his undivided attention.' Pedro calmly stated, “We will take a bottle of quality dark rum, and three glasses. And keep the change.” He mentally added, 'Given everyone that is here. It is best to keep on the bartender's good side. I don't want him to make a scene in the middle of this powder keg. While, I guess. With this contest, both Matthew and I are playing with matches. But, at this point, I am sure neither he, nor I, care.'

The bartenders looked down at the money, as he pulled it off the table, and pocketed it. He looked back up at Pedro, as he said, “Thank you.”

As the man walked away to retrieve Matthew and Pedro's order, Pedro thought, 'The reason I am paying in cash is I don't want anyone here to know I have any gold. When it comes to mafia and pirates, of any age, most of them get gold fever very quickly, when they see that a person has some gold on them. And it would be dangerous for Matthew and myself, if anyone else here found out I was carrying some gold with me.'

A few seconds later, the bartender came back with three bottle of dark rum. He set it on the counter, between Matthew and Pedro. The bartender then pulled out three small clear glasses from under the counter.

The bartender look at the two men, as he said, “Enjoy.” He then turned to his right, as he walked away to ring up the sale.

Matthew picked up the dark rum bottle. He opened the bottle of rum, as he muttered, “Ah rum. My dark mistress of the Caribbean. How I missed your tender kisses.”

Pedro could not help but overhear what Matthew said. He turned to his friend, as he thought, 'Bet, or no bet. He clearly likes rum.' He said, “You usually just drink a beer. I didn't know you liked rum.”

Matthew looked down at the bar counter, toward their three glasses. He started to pour a little rum from the bottle, into one of the glasses, as he stated, “Well, years ago, during my drug fiend years, my alcoholic beverage of choice, when I wasn't doing the harder stuff, was dark rum. And while I haven't touched the other hard core stuff in years, I do occasionally have a glass of dark rum.”

Pedro commented, “Interesting. And you have never really did talk about your past.”

Matthew poured another glass with some rum, as he pointed out, in a slightly sad tone of voice, “No one likes to talk about the mistakes they have made, and the friends they have lost.”

Pedro responded, in a comforting tone of voice, “Well, you have a friend, right here.”

Matthew set the bottle of rum down. He then picked up one of the glasses, with rum in it, with his right hand. He turned to Pedro. He smiled, as he he kindly replied, “I know.”

Pedro looked down at the bar counter, as he used his right hand to pick up the other glass on the counter that had rum in it. He turned back to look at Matthew, as he held up his glass. He toasted, “To safe journeys.”

Mathew held up his glass, as he replied, “To safe journeys.”

Both of them then took a sip of their rum.

After they both lowers their glasses, and swallowed their rum, Pedro commented, “This rum is pretty good.”

Matthew agreed, “Yes. It is.”

They then heard a woman laughing to the right behind Matthew.

Pedro and Matthew turned towards the laughter. They saw that the person laughing at them was Revy.

Revy sat in her stool. As she head her body facing the counter, she had her head turned towards them. Her arms were crossed, and set on the table. As she sat in her stool, she was also leaning slightly towards the table. And there was an open bottle of beer on the counter, in front of her, on the bar counter.

They also noticed Benny and Dutch were looking at them, as well.

Matthew and Pedro set their glasses down, on the bar counter.

Pedro thought, 'While she looks a few years younger then she does when we met her, she is Revy. I see Benny and Dutch, as well. As men, and they look to be in a good mood. Also, I see Revy does not have her two cutlasses and shoulder holsters.'

Due to Revy leaning slightly down on the bar counter, Pedro then noticed the tail-tail of a pistol bulging on the back of her pants, under her untucked shirt. He continued his thought, 'But, she is armed. So, we best be nice to her. Though, that doesn't mean we cannot have some fun with her, Benny, and Dutch.'

Revy mockingly said, “Ah, a cowboy and a tight ass in a suit and tie, having such a tender moment. Who are you two suppose to be?”

Matthew thought, 'I will let Pedro start the conversation. Then, it will be my turn for some payback.''

Pedro thought, 'Now, to use our aliases.' He ignored Revy's insulting tone of voice, as he calmly stated, “I am the Mexican. This is the Lawyer.”

Benny commented, “There is joke somewhere in there.”

Matthew thought, 'My turn.' Matthew looked at Benny. He cracked a grin, as he said, “You have no earthly idea.”

Benny asked, “So, what do you two do?”

Matthew shook his head, to his right, and behind him, towards Pedro, as he faced the man with the blond hair in a ponytail. Matthew casually stated, “He handles the ass kicking. I handle the paperwork.”

Benny and Dutch chuckled a little at Matthew's comment, while Revy just smiled.

Matthew let his sight wonder over towards Revy's body.

Revy noticed Matthew leering at her. She dropped her grin, she asked, with a hint of malice in her tone of voice, “What are you looking at?”

Matthew casually replied, “Everything.”

Behind Revy, Pedro saw Benny and Dutch were quickly trying to stifle their laughter, so as to not risk Revy's wrath.

Pedro thought, 'Benny and Dutch are not, and have never been idiots. And this is nice way to start the ball rolling, Matthew.'

To everyone's surprise, Revy did not lose her temper. And instead, she cracked a grin, as she asked, in a mischievous tone of voice, “Do you like what you see?”

Matthew stated, “I wouldn't be looking, if I didn't like what I see. But, I don't have the time to do anything, but look.”

Revy said, “As long as you look and don't touch, I don't mind.”

Matthew replied, “Thanks.” He mentally added, 'Just as I had planned. Let's see how Pedro tops this.'

Revy said, “You're welcome.”

Pedro thought, 'So, you were playing to Revy's vanity. Nice. Now, it is my turn.'

Pedro then walked passed Matthew and Revy, and came to a stop by Benny and Dutch.

Pedro came to a stop, with Benny and Dutch between him and the counter. Benny and Dutch turned around, with their backs to the counter, as they face Pedro. With Pedro being about three feet from the two men.

Pedro looked at the two men, as he calmly inquired, “So, is that woman with you trained to use that weapon tucked in the back her her pants, under her shirt”

Dutch thought, 'This guy has a sharp eye. I have to watch what I say around him.' He commented, “I am giving her some pointers. Right now, her skills are just from raw talent. But, I see the potential.”

Benny commented, “Though, she is still pretty to look at.”

Pedro looked over at Revy, and Matthew, whom were continued their conversation. With Matthew seemly able to stay on Revy's good side.

Pedro thought, 'Matthew, your sharp tongue lawyer skills are coming in useful in keeping Revy calm.' He then looked Benny and Dutch, as he continued thought, 'Still, I need to know why they are here?'

Pedro asked, “Just from looking at her physique that she has a lot of potential to be a gunfighter. So, what brings you to South America?”

Dutch replied, “Just passing through, and while we try to figure our where our next destination will be.”

Pedro could not help but smirked, as he thought, 'Oh. So, they have no idea where they are going. This is to good an opportunity to pass up. And I doubt Matthew can top this. But, I cannot sale this in to much of a direct manner.'

Pedro smirk turned into a more normal grin, as he mentioned, “Well, there is the place I have heard about. It is this island. Some people call it a gangsters paradise. Where the law exists in name only. And many of the people there are foreigners.”

Benny said, “Sounds like a place from an action movie.”

Pedro thought, 'Nice guess. And you are very close to the truth, Benny.'

Dutch thought, 'We are criminals now. So, if there is a place where criminals can go for a job. Where the law does not come after us. And where there is a large population of foreigners than we can blend in with. We need to know about this place.” He asked, “So, what is the name of this place? And where exactly is this place located?”

Pedro thought, 'I trust Dutch not to screw this up. But, with Chang and his boys so near, I cannot just say Roanapur, nor Thailand, out loud, without risk of catching ten kinds of Hell from Chang, and his men. But first I need to confirm something.'

Pedro inquired, “First, how do you plan to get there?”

Dutch thought, 'Since he is giving directions. He needs to know how I am going to get there.' He answered, “By boat.”

Pedro thought, 'So, that confirms they came her by boat. And it was likely their PT boat. Now, to quietly give him directions.'

Pedro walked over and leaned his head towards Dutch's left ear.

Dutch did not react, as Pedro whispered into Dutch's left ear, “The place is a fishing village known as Roanapur, on the east coast of Thailand. And here is how to get there. You first need to go through the Panama Canal. Which should not be too difficult, considering you look like a man of many talents...'

Pedro then gave Dutch the rest of the directions to reach Roanapur.

Benny turned his head, to Dutch, as he thought, 'Why is he whispering into Dutch's ear?'

When Pedro finished, he leaned back up, as he took a few steps away from Dutch. He asked, “Did you get all that?”

Dutch look up at Pedro, as he answered, “Yea.”

Benny looked over at Pedro, as he questioned, in a slightly annoyed tone of voice “What is with all the secrecy?”

Pedro looked over at Benny, as he commented, “In this game, privacy is a premium commodity.”

Benny thought about what Pedro said for a few seconds. He then said, “Oh. You're right.”

Dutch turned to Benny, as he stated, “Don't worry. I will tell you later.”

Benny turned to Dutch, as he replied, “Okay.” He turned to look at Matthew and Revy, as he suggested, “I think it might be wise if we keep and eye on those two.”

Dutch looked over at Matthew and Revy, as Dutch said, “I agree.”

Pedro turned to Revy and Matthew, also, as he stated, “You're preaching to the choir.”

Meanwhile, Matthew and Revy's conversation took a strange turn.

Revy said, “I don't see how someone like you could find a woman.”

Matthew smirked, as he commented, “Oh. I know plenty of women.”

Matthew thought, 'Unfortunately, they are taken, crazy, or both. Though Pedro, I did notice you whispering into Dutch's ear. And I am sure it is part of our contest. Knowing you, you were probably given him directions to Roanapur. It is the only think you would risk whispering into Dutch's ear, that you would not want others in the room to hear. Such, as Chang. Though, now that I have your undivided attention. It is my turn to have some fun.'

Matthew went onto say, “Though, I won't be surprised if you ended up with someone like me.”

Revy let out a laugh. She then replied, “Dream on.”

Matthew suggest, “I would even wager money. Say two grand, U.S. cash, that within two decades you greater lover will be someone that prefers a suit and tie over a hawaiian shirt. Also, you will be with this person, willingly. And let us even sweeten the deal by saying... The guy is japanese.”

Pedro, Benny, and Dutch silently watched and listened.

Pedro thought, with astonishment, 'Now, this is what I call gutsy.'

Dutch thought, 'What the hell is going on here? Why would anyone make such an insane bet?'

Revy smirked, as she said, “You are on.” She thought, 'Since I get to pick the person I end up with. This will be a sucker's bet for you.'

Benny thought, 'Why do I have a feeling that is a sucker's bet, that Revy just fell for?...'

Matthew pulled out a small piece of paper and a pen, from an interior coat pocket. He said, “One minute. I need to write out the contact.”

Revy commented, “Take your time. I look forward to collecting in two decades. And you better be there.”

Matthew starting writing the contract, while making sure not to mention Revy, nor his name. He continued writing, as he said, “It might be longer than two decades, but I promise that I will meet you again about this bet.”

Revy replied, “That will be fine. As long as I get to collect.”

Matthew continued to writer, as he thought with amusement, 'Oh, I get to collect. And since you are rich, by then. I will expect you to pay up.'

Meanwhile, Dutch had been paying attention to what was going on. He thought, 'Well, if anything, this proves these guys are serious. And likely nuts, as well. But, it is an interesting bet. And that other guy gave us directions to an interesting place. Though, any way the bet goes, I doubt either will be able to collect from the other. I mean, Revy does not like losing. And this guy, seems to be acting as if he is expecting to collect on such an idiotic bet.'

(_)

At that moment, on the middle, of left side of the room, Chang sat in his table, with a few of his men. His back was facing the far left wall, and he was having a mixed drink of cola and Jack Daniels. He looked over at the bar counter, where he saw a group of five adults.

Revy was facing in Chang's general direction, giving him a view of her. He thought, 'The redhead is as hot as Shenhua. I wonder if she has the same temperament as Shenhua?...'

Chang then noticed Pedro and Matthew. With Pedro facing his general direction, while Matthew had his back partly turned from him.

Chang thought, 'I don't believe it. It is those two guys I met last March. I wondered what happened to them. They sure intelligent enough to get out of town real quick, after that shootout... So, what they are doing here? Oh well. No one got hurt during the incident. Also, it was that crazy woman that pulled the gun, and started shooting. Not them. Besides, I am too tired to deal with them tonight.'

'Still, Severo was right. This is a pretty good bar. And my men are happy. Though, I wonder what those russians, across the room, are here for. But, that is not worth asking them. I don't want start any trouble tonight.'

Chang then went back to sipping his drink.

(_)

A minute later, at the bar counter, Matthew finished writing out his quick contact. It was only a few brief paragraphs lone. Among other things, he including the date. Which was October nineteenth, nineteen ninety-one. Though, he did not sign his name on it. At his place for the signature, he signed it, The Lawyer.

Matthew handed Revy the pen, as he passed the paper over to her, on the counter.

Revy took the pen, and she signed her nickname, Revy, at the bottom.

Revy then handed Matthew back his pen.

Matthew gently took the pen and pocketed it, back where had his pen. Next, he made sure that Revy had signed the contact with her name. Which she did. After which, he folded contract, and pocket it.

Revy asked, “Don't we need a witness?”

Matthew looked over at Revy, as he replied, “This is an informal bet. So, no. It is not like it is legally binding. And we both know that if there is a disagreement, it will not be handled by the courts.”

Revy replied, “You got that right.”

Matthew then reached into another interior jacket pock, where he pulled out his smart phone, which was just a standard smart phone will all the functions. Along with the device being fully charged.

Pedro noticed the device, as he thought, with debrief, 'I don't believe he kept his smart phone. Though, it is likely from Chang, and therefore encrypted, with a built in firewall. And to be honest, I have my satellite cellphone, as well. And there is nothing I can do about it, now. Also, if either of our phones run out of juice, I am sure we can get adapters, somewhere, for them.'

'Still, I did upgrade my cellphones to a satellite phone, that should work anywhere on this planet. If the system is in place. So, there is that.'

Benny was the first to notice the smart phone, as he asked, “What is that?”

Matthew looked over at him, as he coyly answered, “You'll find out in a few years. But, this device takes pictures. And we will use it as a way to document this bet. As such, I would like pictures of all three of you, with me.”

Dutch said, “Count me out. I value my privacy.”

Revy commented, “I'm game.”

Benny replied, “So am I.”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he requested, “Now, my friend, will you do the honors?”

Pedro looked over at Matthew, as he shrugged. He said, “Sure.”

Matthew handed Pedro the smart phone.

Meanwhile, Revy turned around, with her back to the counter, as Matthew moved a step closer to Revy right side, while Benny leaned closer to Revy left side.

Pedro took a few steps back, to get picture of Matthew, Revy, and Benny. Though, he was careful not to get Dutch in the photo shoot.

As Pedro held the smart phone in both his hands, long ways, he got the right angle to the three adults faces and upper bodies.

Pedro said, “Say cheese.”

All three adults smiled, as they said, in unison, “Cheese.”

Pedro then took a few photos, with no flash from the smart phone.

Pedro them walked back over to Matthew, as he thought, 'I figure as long as we don't take any other pictures, we are fine.'

A second later, Pedro came to a stop in front of Matthew, as Pedro handed Matthew his smart phone.

After Matthew took the smart phone, Pedro took a few steps, to Matthew's right, towards the middle of the bar counter. He then turned to his right, to face the four other adults at the bar counter.

As Matthew looked at his smart phone, Benny and Revy were looking at the device as well.

Benny requested, “Can I see the picture you took.”

Revy said, “I would like to see that, as well.”

Matthew replied, “Sure.” He quickly tabbed the screen to the first picture of them. He then held the pictured of them, in front of Revy and Benny, to see.

Benny commented, “That is pretty good quality. And it didn't even use a flash.”

Revy said, “I have to agreed.”

Matthew then put the smart phone back into the interior coat pocket that he had the device in beforehand.

Benny asked, “So, what is this?”

Revy commented, “It is not Polaroid camera. That is for damn sure.”

Matthew thought, 'I cannot tell them that it is an a computer cellphone. Or, more often called, a smart phone. Considering, cellphone technology right now is barely on itself feet. Compare to two decades in the future, for realities, like this one. But, I do have a much easier explanation.'

Matthew looked at Revy, and Benny, as he answered, “It is a digital camera. Among other things.”

Benny stated, “I have heard of those types of cameras. That must have cost a fortune?”

Matthew coyly responded, “Nah. It is cheap, where I bought it from.”

Benny questioned, “Is that Japan? I mean you did mention a japanese man in your bet, just now.”

Matthew conceded, “A logical guess. But, no.”

Dutch turned to Benny, as he reminded Benny, “Remember, when his friend said that privacy is a premium commodity. This is one of those moments.”

Benny turned to Dutch as he said, “Okay.” He turned back to Matthew, as he stated, “Sorry about that.”

Matthew replied, “No problem.”

Revy commented, “I don't care what that thing is. But, it is cool.”

Matthew replied, “I know.” He then looked over at the open bottle of beer, beside Revy, on the bar counter.

Matthew smirked, as he thought, “Now, for some more fun.” He turned back to face the bar counter, as he pour some of rum into the empty glass he had left. After he set the bottle down, he turned to Revy.

Matthew mentally wondered, 'Now, how did that line, she said, or in this case, will say, go... Ah, yes...' He commented, “That stuff will never get you drunk.”

Pedro thought, 'So, that is why you got the rum. Oh, that is just plain devious. You are even quoting, Revy, to her future self, from episode one of the anime. And she doesn't even realize that you are quoting her. Hell, you might have given her the quote, just now. And this situation has just turned into another time loop. And also, at this rate, I will even admit that I am going to lose this bet.'

Revy commented, “Do you have a problem with me drinking beer?”

Matthew replied, “No. I just believe you likely have better tastes, if someone took the time to broadened your horizons. Have you ever tried rum before?”

Revy replied, “No.”

Matthew turned and used his left hand to pick up the glass he had just pour. He turned back to face Revy, as he held the glass in front of her. He offered, “This is dark rum. And you seem like a woman that would like it. Here. Have a try. It is on me.”

Revy said, “Okay.” She took the glass from Matthew's left hand, with her right hand. She took a sip of rum, from the glass in her right hand.

The sip quickly turned into a swallow, with the rum swiftly disappearing from the glass, and down Revy's throat.

When Revy finished, she licked her lips, as she set the glass down by her bottle of beer.

Revy then looked over at Matthew, as she smiled warmly at Matthew. She commented, “I like it. Thanks.”

Matthew happily replied, “You're welcome.”

Dutch noticed this, as he thought, 'These guys are clearly very smooth. I don't know what game they are playing. But, I don't need Revy drunk, right now. I have seen her drunk. By her own acts. Getting her drunk will not get a person in bed with her. It will more likely get that person's ass kicked by her. So, it is time to slightly tug on her chain.' He suggested, “Let's get back to drinking, guys. That is why we came here. To unwind, and relax. But, be careful how much you drink. It is a long way to the boat.”

Benny said, “I agree.”

Revy looked over at the bottle of rum, then at her half empty bottle of beer. She replied, “Fine. I will.”

Revy. Benny, and Dutch, turned around to face the bar, as they nursed their drinks.

Meanwhile Pedro and Matthew had moved back, by the middle part of the bar counter, to the left of the three other other adults. The two men stood next to each other, with Matthew closer to the three adults, than Pedro. Also, the two men were presently facing forward, towards the entrance to the bar.

Just then, Matthew and Pedro noticed a woman with fair skin and long purple hair, in a ponytail, enter the bar, from the front entrance, and walk towards the bar counter. She was wearing green combat fatigues, and a green military cap. The two men also saw that the woman had a semi-automatic pistol holstered on the right side of her belt.

The two men only glanced at the woman briefly, before they both quickly recognized the woman, and they looking away, as they were concerned not to attract her attention. Though, they also noticed that they were the only ones in the bar that paid her any mind.

Neither man said anything, until the woman with purple hair came to a stop, on the far left side of the bar counter, opposite to Revy, Benny, and Dutch.

Pedro and Matthew then looked over at the woman, with only their eyes, for a couple of seconds. Matthew then took a few steps closer to Pedro, as he whispered, “Is that who I think it is?”

Pedro softly replied, “Yes. If I was to guess, I would say she just left the Colombian cartel, whom are after now her. With the cartel being here any minute... That is the way these things usually work out.”

Matthew quietly commented, “Yes. And we know this because we have been around these lunatics way too long. We are starting to think like them.”

Pedro questioned, “Possibly. Is the bet still on?”

Matthew replied, “Yes.”

Pedro said, “Good.” Pedro looked over at the bartender, near them, from across the counter. Pedro requested, “Bartender. A moment of your time. Please.”

The bartender turned to look at Pedro, as he walked up behind the counter, in front of the mexican.

And Pedro used his right hand to reach into the pocket, he had been pulled his money from.

(_)

Across the bar counter, on the opposite side as Dutch, Roberta had sat in a stool. She faced the back of the bar, as she collected her thoughts, 'All day... All day, I was looking for my deceased father's friend, Diego Lovelace. And I couldn't find him... And I call myself, Bloodhound...'

'Though, I had to be careful where I went. Sticking to many alleyways, and back streets, in my search, because my clothing and pistol would attract the wrong type of attention from... Everyone...'

'To make matters worse. Several people have been shadowing me since around noon. And they are good at it, but I am a lot better. They are likely cartels members sent to capture me. And then make an example out of me.'

'I really shouldn't be surprised they learned I am heading this way. I tend to stand out. I mean, how many women with long purple hair and blue eyes are there in the world?...'

'The worst part is I cannot risk confronting them. Because, I don't have a lot of ammo. And a gun battle would only attract the attention of the police and military. That would make things worse for myself. They are probably quite a few of them that would like nothing better to do than kill the Bloodhound, for a chance as a promotion, or reward.'

'On the bright side. They all know I am too dangerous to try to rape. So, they are just going to try to kill me.'

'Speaking of which. In a twisted way, I wonder what the amount of the bounty is, that the cartel put on my head?...'

'Still, I don't dare lead them to Diego's home. That would make for such a horrible first impression. I will lose them later tonight. For now, I figure ducking into this crowded bar will decrease the chance of them following me in here. And this bar seems shady enough to let me walk in without attracting to much attention. And from the lack of reactions from those around me, I believe I am correct...'

'I need a few minutes to sit down and think of what I am going to do next. Besides, I could really use a drink.'

A few seconds later, from across the bar counter, the bartender set two glasses, and a bottle of El Jimador Tequila in front of Roberta. The bartender then walked away from her.

Roberta thought, with amusement, 'Ask, and ye shall receive.'

Roberta then noticed a man approaching her, from her right.

A second later, Pedro came to a stop, beside Roberta, to her right.

Roberta turned to him, as she asked, in spanish, “Do I have you to thank for this drink?

Pedro gave Roberta a warm smile, as he said, in spanish, “Yes. I hope you like it. You look like you could use a drink.”

Roberta thought, 'This man is clearly crazy. Given, I am dressed in my fatigues, with a pistol strapped to my belt. And even I can even smell the sweet on myself. And he still approached me. But, then again. I do need a drink. And I like this brand. Also, he being polite... So, why not?... Though, I do have one question for him.'

Roberta inquired, “How do you know this was one of my favorite drinks?”

Pedro answered, “Lucky guess. I am a mexican. And Tequila is practically our national drink.”

Pedro thought, 'This is also the brand of Tequila you will drink during your Blood Trail arc. Though, I am surprised that this guy has El Jimador in stock. Considering, the brand was not introduced in my reality until nineteen ninety-four. And it is nineteen ninety-one, here.'

'I guess Lee was right. A number of items, fiction, and technology, come out here, at a sooner date, than in our home reality. And even if this brand is new, here, I am not surprised this place has it, because it was a big hit back home. And I should know, El Jimador is one of my favorite brands of Tequila, as well.'

Roberta picked up the bottle of Tequila, and she opened it. She then poured herself a glass of Tequila. After which, she set down the bottle, and picked the glass up with her right hand. Next, she then held the glass up to her lips, and swallowed the entire amount of liquid she had pour for herself in one gulp, without gagging.

She then set the glass down, back on the bar counter. She looked over at Pedro, as she said, “I needed that.”

Pedro kindly offered, “Have as much as you want.”

Pedro then picked up the bottle of Tequila, and refilled Roberta's glass. Next, he pour some Tequila in his glass.

Pedro set the bottle down, as Roberta said, “Thank you.”

Then, both Pedro and Roberta, picked up their glasses, and shared a drink together.

(_)

Near the middle the bar counter, Matthew watched as Pedro and Roberta pleasantly talked to each other, as they drank some of the Tequila that Pedro bought from the bartender.

Matthew thought, with a little bit of disbelief, 'It is hard believe what I am seeing. That Pedro is putting the moves on Roberta. Even I will admit that is insane. Though, she is too spice for me. I think Pedro is just crazy, and badass enough to try something with her. And I don't know how I am going to top this. Still, I am too close to ground zero for my tastes. I mean, Pedro and I are literally standing between Revy and Roberta. This will be a bad place to be, if this blows up in Pedro's face. So, I need to move.'

Matthew looked around the room. A second later, he saw an empty table, near the front entrance, on the left side of the bar, close to Chang's men.

Matthew thought, 'That will do.'

Matthew turned back around, and screwed the cap back onto top of the bottle of rum. Next, he collected his empty glass in his right hand, while he took the bottle of rum, by its handle, with his left hand. He then turned and casually walked towards the front part of the room.

As Matthew walked, he was careful not to glance at either the chinese, nor the russians. Though, Matthew could feel a few casual glances towards him, from both groups.

A few seconds later, Matthew reached the table by the door, on the left side of the room, near Chang's men. The round table had four chairs around it.

Matthew set up glass and bottle down on the table. He then sat in a chair, with his back facing the door, which allowed him to look at the bar counter, his friend, and the others sitting at the counter.

As Matthew got comfortable, he thought, 'As dangerous as it is to have one's back to the door. In this case, I prefer to keep a wary eye on both the chinese, russians, and those at the counter. Still, I doubt either of these two group will try anything against me, unless I give them a reason to do so.'

'And the reason I am sitting near the chinese, than the russians, is that the chinese are clearly more relaxed. And most of them are drinking beers, while the most russian are drinking vodka and other hard alcoholic drinks. Meaning, the chinese are likely more sober than the russians. Not that is makes either group any less dangerous.'

Matthew then pointed some rum in his glass. Set the bottle back on the table, near the edge, to his right side. And he began to sip his drink, as he kept an eye on what was happening at the bar counter.

(_)

A minute after Matthew sat down, with his back to the front doors, three women walked into the bar, from the front entrance.

It was Daiyu, River, and Lee.

While Matthew had his back turned to the three women, the three women immediately recognized Matthew.

As the three women walked around to face Matthew, to Matthew's right side, they saw that Matthew had pour himself another glass of rum, with him setting the bottle near the edge of the table, to his right side.

The three women sat down, in chairs, in front of Matthew, at the table he was at.

Matthew saw that it was River, Daiyu, and Lee. With River being to his left. Daiyu was right in front of him. And Lee was to his right.

To Daiyu, River, and Lee's surprise. Matthew did not act surprised towards seeing them. Instead, he remained aloft, to their sudden presence.

Instead, Matthew calmly set his glass back on the table.

Matthew's actions became even more confusing, as he smirked, while he casually said, “Hi girls.” He thought, 'I guess danger is a subjective term. Also, we are far enough away from the major players, of the past, that I can talk a little, without worry of any eavesdropping from them.'

Daiyu thought, 'Matthew is way to calm towards seeing us. Also, where is Pedro?' She asked, in english, “Where is Pedro?”

Matthew coyly replied, “He is busy at the moment.”

Daiyu responded, “Okay. We will get to him, in a minute. I want to know why are you so happy to see us?”

Matthew smirk turned into a wicked smile, as he said, “Because I know for sure there is not a god damn thing you are going to do to me, in here, right now. Take a hard look around at the people here.”

The three women did so and they visibly paled.

They turned back to look at Matthew, just in time to see his smile get even wider, as he looked at them.

Matthew casually stated, “Welcome to the unholy last supper.”

Lee commented, in english, “This isn't even in the series, and I can see this happening as an origins story.”

The situation finally jogged Daiyu's memory, as she said, “Oh. Now, I remember this date. And this night. For the most part. In about minute, we are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.”

River then sensed Pedro, and that he was talking to someone else that she also recognized.. She turned to her left, towards the left side of the bar counter to see that Pedro was having a pleasant conversation, along with a few drinks, with the Roberta of the past.

While continuing to look in the direction of the bar counter, River said, in english, “You think that is trouble. Take a look at the bar, and see who Pedro is putting the moves on.”

They saw that Pedro was making a pass at Roberta, and from the gentle smile Roberta was giving him, it was working.

Daiyu stated, “He must have a death wish.”

Lee turned back to Matthew, as she demand, in a normal tone of voice, “Okay. What the hell is going on?”

River and Daiyu looked over at Matthew, as well.

Matthew calmly answered, “Pedro and I, have a bet going on, as to who can do the craziest thing tonight.”

Daiyu hesitantly inquired, “Dare I ask what you have done so far?”

Matthew said, in a casual tone of voice, “Sure. As payback for the way you all have treated us, we have been going back and forth on this bet. Which is loser pays for a meal for the winner.”

River flatly questioned, “So, you are risking existence itself, by creating a paradox, over a stupid bet?

Matthew smiled, as he playfully replied, “It was bound to happen eventually.”

Lee commented, “He's right. It would have eventually happened.”

River turned to Lee, as she warned, in a low tone of voice, “You're not helping.”

Lee looked at River, as she apologized, with a bit of regret in her tone of voice, “Sorry.”

River replied, in a more calmer tone of voice, “That is much better.”

Lee and River then looked back at Matthew.

Matthew calmly said, “Look. In all seriousness. We are being careful. We are watching what we say, and we are using aliases.”

Lee repeated Daiyu's questioned, “So, what have you done, so far?”

Matthew softly answered, “Well, I believe that Pedro has quietly given Dutch directions to Roanapur. I have got Revy into a sucker bet, where she agreed to pay me if she will end up with a japanese man that prefers a suit and tie to a hawaiian t-shirt. I am going to collect on that two grand one day.”

River and Lee remained silent, as Daiyu giggled a little. Daiyu then said, in a sarcastic tone of voice, “Good luck with that.” She thought, 'Though, I have to admit that bet is a creative form of revenge.'

Matthew stated, “As a lawyer, I have gotten money out of more dangerous people, than her. Anyway, I also introduced Revy to rum. I can only imagine the punishment I am now responsible for, towards her liver. And with that serum will keep that punishment going for the next couple of centuries, at least.”

The three women at the table giggled a little. As they calmed down, River said, “Even I will admit that is wicked mean. Please, continued.”

Matthew mischievously smiled, as he happily responded, “I know. Now, Pedro here is putting the moves on the maid. I got to give him credit, that takes guts, considering we are both agreed that the Colombians are about to show up, any minute.”

Daiyu said, “You are right about that. But, we still have a little time to talk.”

River asked, “So, what are your aliases?”

Matthew responded, in a casual tone of voice, “Pedro came up with the aliases, and he used them on Revy, Benny, and Dutch, at the bar. I am the lawyer. And Pedro is the mexican.”

The three women immediately recognized the aliases. Matthew noticed a bit of surprise showing on their faces.

Daiyu replied, “So, your two are the mexican and the lawyer?”

Matthew answered, “Of course. It is unwise to give our real names. And we are having a ball with the titles we are using.”

Daiyu replied, “That explains a lot. Still...” She turned to Lee, as she asked, “So, is this your fault?”

Lee answered, “No. But, if someone did have a hand in this, they did a good job on the set up.”

River stopped herself from smiling at Lee's comment.

Lee commented, “Also, we are likely caught in another temporal loop.”

Daiyu shrugged, as she responded, “Yes. And if we had not treated our two friends here so badly, they would not have jump realities, ended up here, and bring all the craziness to Roanapur, that cost me my first kingdom.”

Lee pointed out, “But, if that did not happen, it would have likely created a reality destroying paradox.”

Daiyu questioned, “So, I was fucked either way?”

Lee calmly replied, “Pretty much.”

River stated, “Actually, we all ended up better than we were at the time. And we all got to meet each other. With it working out for us, in the end. And besides, girls. Blame is not important. What is important is us figuring out how to leave here in one piece.”

Lee agreed, “You got that right.”

Daiyu complimented, “Good point.”

Lee turned to Matthew, as she inquired, “Now, as someone who has gone insane, and is enjoying every minute of their lack of sanity. I have to ask what is on the lips of my two lovers, here. Have you two lost your minds, to talk to us this way? And pull the stunts you have just done?”

Matthew chuckled a little. He then answered, “Maybe. You have all have been putting a lot of pressure on Pedro and I, for the last two years. To paraphrase a quote from a song line from an animated movie Pedro showed me once. We have been living on the edge so long. Where the winds of limbo roar.”

River looked at her two lovers, with a slightly confused look on her face.

Both Daiyu and Lee noticed the look on River's face.

Daiyu was the first to speak, as she explained, “The song is from the band, Blue Oyster Cult, the title is Psychic Wars. It was used in the original animated Heavy Metal movie.” She though, 'And it also means that Pedro taste in fiction continues to surprise me, in the quality of fiction he enjoys viewing, and likely reading. Pedro might even be a Moebius comic fan. And those are a set of insane realities I knew better than to try to go to. Nor, send people to.'

The three women then looked back at Matthew, as Lee said, “I will grant you that we should have treated you both better.”

Matthew flatly stated, “Yes. You should have.”

River responded, “Okay. We admit we were wrong.”

Matthew could see Daiyu and Lee both each nodding once, in agreement.

Daiyu commented, “I admit, I could have done things a big better for you, and Pedro.”

Lee said, “And I admit. I should has been more proactive in what was happening to you, and Pedro. But, my own personal life sort of got away from me.”

River looked over at Lee and Daiyu. She then turned back to face Matthew, as she stated, “See. We all are sorry for what has happened to the both of you. And we regret what happened.”

Matthew calmly responded, “That is better. Though, this does not mean we are going back with you. But, I will concede that you are making progress.”

River asked, “Good. So, what else have you been up to, since you came to South American, this morning?”

Matthew answered, “I am not surprised your tracker can record when we got here. But, to answer your question. Not much. Still, Pedro really does have strange tastes in fiction. And if it wasn't for the situation we find ourselves in, I would say he takes his fiction a little too seriously.”

Daiyu thought, 'That goes without saying. Still...' She inquired, “Such as?”

Matthew said, “Pedro has some wild theories on the origin of this reality. He might be a bigger fan of yours, than Lee here is.”

River and Lee remained silent, while Daiyu shrugged, as she said, “That is possible.”

Matthew mentioned, “By the way, this morning we ran into a couple of green haired children we all know. Lee, did you know that Fabiola and Rico are sister and brother? Or, should I say now, sister and sister?”

Lee answered, “A while ago, I learned about their blood relation during of the bikini parties we went to.” She thought, 'Around a year and a half for you, Matthew.'

Lee continued, “Due to Rico being with the drug cartel, and given the Lovelace's bad history with the cartels. When Fabiola found out what Rico had been up too. She had nothing to do with Rico. But, that was years ago, and Rico has since moved onto another jobs.”

“When Daiyu, and River here, along with the others found this out, long before even you, Pedro, and I, hit the scene. They have all been trying to get the two of them to talk to each other again. When I found out, there wasn't much a I could do.”

“Still, even from third hand sources, Roberta and Garcia are also trying to help. As you know, for those two, family is a very important concept. Which I agree with. And they two of them are now back on speaking terms, which is an improvement...”

Lee's eyes slightly widened, in surprise, as she stated, in an even tone of voice, so as to not alert those around them, “Wait a minute. The only way you would know Rico was now a woman would be if you read my stories. You don't go to the Last Resort to eat, and the people in our social circles prefer to not talk about the secrets of each other, to those they don't completely trust.”

Matthew complimented, “That is very perceptive of you. And yes, I have read your stories. Pedro showed them to me. And I must say you are quite the writer. I figuratively laughed my ass off reading them. I can see why the others wanted their revenge on you. Though, I am glad you came out of it in one piece.”

River asked, “While I am not surprised that Pedro told you about the stories. I do want to know how your were able to keep me from reading that knowledge from your mind?”

Matthew grinned, as he answered, “Because I have my own little secrets. My younger brother, Ian, is a telepath. A long time ago, he taught me how to shield my thoughts from telepathic scans. And he taught me how to tell if someone is inside my mind.”

“I originally became a lawyer to legally fight for the rights of telepaths. Even though our problems happened years after the telepath war. And that taxpayer funded cult, Psi Corps, was abolished. People, like my brother, still have problems with having respect their basic rights. Such as owning property, and getting a job. My brother was one of the first people I helped to legally get a job in the private sector. He runs a successful restaurant now. I even helped Mister Dresden with his job.”

Lee asked, “Why didn't you mention this, when we first met?”

Matthew stated, “Because, as you know. I value the privacy of my clients.”

Lee shrugged, in response.

Daiyu commented, “He has a point there.”

Matthew looked at River, as he frowned. He flatly stated, “River, you think your scary. While Psi Corps itself was disbanded, and most of the Psi Corp members that were still there, at the end of the telepath war, were either killed, or imprisoned. But, the children of the members were spared. And those children that were born into the Psi Corps were just as fanatical, and brainwashed, as those that raised them. And as they grew up, they formed telepathic cults, whose members took the time to learn how to use the law in their favor.”

“I had to legally battle these telepath cults, to save the lives and minds of several telepaths. And I did. But, there were casualties along the way. You see. When they go after someone, they like to force their enemies to make it look like a suicide. Or, in some cases, if their enemy has a family. A murder-suicide, with the enemy being force to kill their family, before being forced to commit suicide.”

“And it is hard to prove such crimes, when telepath scans are not admissible in court. And they don't allow any witnesses to survive to tell the tale.”

“The only reason they did get me was that over time, my mental shields slowly grew, as I was forced to use them, practically all the time, when I had my own legal practice.”

Daiyu thought, with concern, 'Dear god! Matthew went through all that. Matthew may not be a fighter, but in his own way, he is clearly as much as badass as any of us.'

River sadly said, “That must have been very hard for you.”

Matthew commented, in a sober tone of voice, “Yes. Those experiences were hard battles for me. But, it was those battles that are what got Garibaldi's attention. He admired my abilities, my ethics, and my determinations. And please no lawyer jokes over that one.”

River replied, “Won't dream of it.”

Lee commented, “After that. No way.”

Daiyu said, “Honestly. After learning all this. I have new found respect for you.”

Matthew responded, “Thank you. About Garibaldi. You told me that he got cursed, like you. To turn female. But, his curse was not locked. And that he got home. But, you never gave me any details. You never told me what curse. And he was a great boss to me. And you all owe me at least closure on this matter, by explaining to me what happened to him, in more detail.”

Lee was the first to speak, as she said, “You're right. And I guess I should be the one to tell you. Did Pedro ever show you the Ranma Half anime, or manga.”

Matthew looked over at Lee, as he replied, “He showed me both versions of that series. And they were interesting. So, Garibaldi has a water curse, and so do you. But, yours is locked?”

Lee commented, “Correct on both points.”

Matthew questioned, “So, the big question is. Was him getting cursed your fault?”

Lee answered, “No. That was completely not my fault. I did bring him to the middle of the cursed springs. But, we made it out of the springs, without getting curse. I even I warned him about the dangers of the springs before hand. I tried to stop him from jumping into that spring. I even followed him in to help save Garcia.”

Matthew answered, “So, that is how Garcia wind up cursed. You only hinted that in your stories.”

Lee deadpanned, “I know. And that came back to bite me in the ass.”

Matthew chuckled a little, in response to Lee's comment.

River asked, “Does Pedro know about Garibaldi's curse?”

Matthew turned to River, as he said, “Pedro and I don't keep secrets. Actually, when I gave him the few details on Lee and Garibaldi's changes, he guessed correctly that you both are under that water curse. And that is why he showed me the Ranma Half series, in the first place.”

Daiyu inquired, “Why would you tell him about this?”

Matthew look at Daiyu, as he stated, “No offense intended, but Pedro is the only hundred percent man I can talk too about this. The only one in the loop with me, that we can discuss these matters. If we talked to someone else, outside of this loop, you all would either have both of us killed, or worse. And given the level of insanity we have both been thrust into, we really both needed to find someone we can talk to, that we both trusted.”

Daiyu conceded, “I will give you that one.”

Matthew commented, “Also, it is no wonder we became fast friends. He even shared his collection with me, as we drank and talked.”

Daiyu inquired, “That is all well, and good. But, do you honestly think you two can survive out here?”

Matthew countered, “We have been doing good, so far. And we have seen and read many series. We have read Lee's stories. So, we know the score.”

Lee disagreed, “No, you don't. I use to think the same thing until they showed me other sides of themselves. Sides not in their series, nor did I write. For example, the Lagoon family have an S&M dungeon in their island mansion. I never wrote that.”

Matthew shrugged, as he commented, “That is not really that surprising. That group always seemed to like both pleasure and pain. Both from each other, and other people.”

Matthew continued, in a more softer tone of voice, “I mean, even before Rock showed up, Benny and Dutch both had to be latent masochists to put up with, and work with Revy, for years. Also, Rock had, his, or now her, moments. And Janet is a known nympho. So, with that group, an S&M dungeon was bound to happen.”

Lee remained silent, while Daiyu and River giggled a little at Matthew's comment.

As they calmed down, Daiyu pointed out, “Still, speaking of Rock, and myself. You are no, Rock. And Pedro is not me. You both need to call this quits, and come home, before you get hurt. And I am not talking about us harming you.”

Matthew smirked, as he agreed, “You're right. I am not Rock. I am worse. I am lawyer. And Pedro is better than you. Before you came along, he cleaned up his home town. He turned his city from a shithole into a decent place to live. You may be on your way to turning his city back into a shithole, but his accomplishments are still worth mentioning.”

“And our friendship is interesting, in of itself. A lawyer from a parallel, future reality becomes friends with cowboy cop from the past. It makes for good entertainment, as we sail across the high seas of reality. By the way, I love that term.”

Daiyu and Lee said, almost in unison, “Thank you.”

River turned Daiyu and Lee. She then looked over at Matthew, as she stated, “Matthew, I have talked to these two. We all agree. If you two come home now, and all will be forgiven.”

Matthew countered, “Pedro and I both agreed that we don't want to go back to the way it was before. If you are wondering, River, we both blame you three, here, the most, for wrecking our lives. We know about Sam. And as I said, Pedro spent a decade cleaning up his home town and you all went and wrecked his hard work. On the other hand, I was on the fast track to executive status with on intergalactic company. Now, both of us have had our dreams shattered by you. And the real reason you three are really after us is because we know too much.”

River began, in comforting tone of voice, “That is not true. We really do care about you two...”

But, before River could finished her response, a dozen men with assault rifles stormed into the room, from the front double-doors.

The men came to a stop just inside the double-doors. The men were carrying an assortment of automatic rifles, and semi-automatic pistols.

Everyone in the room turned to look at them. With those are the bar counter turning, and in the case of four of them, getting onto their feet, as they look at the men.

From their clothing, skin tones, weapons, and demeanor, everyone could these newcomers were cartel members. Though, no one was sure of which cartel the men belonged too.

In the front of the group of cartel members stood the leader of the group. The man was a middle-aged, heavy set man, with tanned skin, and short brown hair. He had a full, groomed beard. He was wearing brown pants, black leather belt, brown leather dress shoes, a blue button up, short sleeved shirt, with a brown suit coat over his shirt.

Unbeknownst, to those in the room, the leader was Velasco, Severo's second in command, in the Manisarera cartel, in Caracas.

Everyone inside the bar also noticed that the cartel members were all pointing their weapons at woman with long purple hair, tied into a ponytail, whom was wearing green combat fatigues, and military cap.

The weapon of choice that Velasco brought with him, which he held with both hands, as he pointed the firearm at the Bloodhound, was an IMBEL MD-Two automatic rifle. The IMBEL MD-Two rifle was based off FN FAL design that was created by the Belgian Fabrique Nationale company. The MD-Two fired a five point fifty-six by forty-five millimeter round. The ammo magazine for the rifle held thirty rounds. At the moment, there were twenty-nine rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber of Velasco's automatic rifle.

As Velasco and his men continued to point their weapons at Roberta, Velasco flatly said, in spanish, “You are coming with us, Bloodhound.”

Roberta thought, 'Oh hell. Coming here was a mistake. Because, I am cornered... And I was just getting to know this nice mexican, beside me.'

Meanwhile, the bartender realized the danger he was in, and he immediately ran out the back door of the bar, which was by the left exit of the bar counter, against the back wall.
The door lead down the hallway, on the far right end of the wall, against the back wall of the hallway, with the hallway dead ending right there. The door to the exit swung to the right, against the back wall.

A second later, Velasco heard clicking noise to the left of Roberta, to his right. He looked over at the man beside Roberta, and he saw that the man in a brown long coat, was holding, with his right hand, an Argentinian model nineteen twenty-seven Sistema Colt semi-automatic pistol, with forty-five auto rounds. The pistol was cocked, and the man was pointing his weapon Velasco.

The man pointing his weapon at Velasco, stated, in a forceful tone of voice, in english, “Don't move. You're surrounded by armed bastards.”

Fortunately, Velasco knew english. Velasco arrogantly demanded, in english, “And who are you?”

Roberta and Revy looked at the man's face, with slight fear of his his feral, slight toothy, smile, as the man answered, in english “I am the Mexican.”

Pedro thought, with delight, 'I always wanted a good excuse to use that line from Life on Mars. And this situation is just perfect for that line by Gene Hunt. And Gene Hunt is the man. Now, show these kids how it's done.'

Suddenly, Velasco and his men heard several more clicking sounds, along with lots of laughter, from around the room.

Velasco looked around to his right he saw several russian men, and a blond woman with a scar running down the right side of her face, pointing their pistols at them, while they chuckled.

And to his left, he saw several chinese men, pointing their pistols at them. One of the men was holding a semi-automatic pistol in each of his hands.

On the left side of the room, Chang pointed his two custom, Beretta seventy-six pistols, towards the cartel members. The pistols has inlaid silver dragon pistol grips pistols at the new group, and the weapons fired twenty-two caliber subsonic hollowpoint rounds.

Chang kept his weapons trained on the cartel members, as he looked over at Pedro. Chang stated, in english, “That is a good line. I will have to remember it.”

Pedro did not take his eyes, nor his pistol off the cartel members, as he nodded once in acknowledgment that he heard Chang's statement. Pedro thought, 'Well, while you remember it, you did not seem to connect to me, when we met in your future, and my past. And if these scumbags think they are going to ruin my night, they got another thing coming. I have faced worse than them, and live.'

Chang then turned back to look at the cartel members, as he inquired, in english, “So, who are you? And why are you disturbing our relaxing, quiet party?”

Velasco turned to Chang, while keep his weapon trained on Roberta. He stated, in english, “We are with the Manisarera cartel.”

Chang asked, “Severo's group?”

Velasco stated, “Yes.” Velasco turned back to look at Roberta, and Pedro, with Pedro still pointing his pistol at him, as he continued, “And we only want the purple haired woman.”

(_)

Across the room, on the right side of the room, Balalaika was standing with her men, as she listened to the men talk in english. She understood every word they had said, as she used her right hand to point her Stechkin APS automatic pistol at the cartel member. Her Stechkin APS was set to semi-automatic single shot, and the weapon fired nine millimeter rounds. The Stechkin APS ammo magazine held a total of twenty rounds. With Balalaika’s pistol have nineteen rounds in the magazine, and one round in the chamber, with the hammer cocked back, ready to fire.

Balalaika thought, 'I will let this play out. Though, I am annoyed that the Severo would send so many men, to disturb such a pleasant evening for us. And it is clear that Severo met with both my group, and this chinese man's group, very recently. And I wonder why Severo would hold so many meetings, in such a short timespan? And why would Severo send so many armed men to handle one person?'

Balalaika looked over at Roberta, while she kept her weapon trained on the cartel members. She continued her thoughts, 'My instincts till me to watch this woman. And while I don't know spanish. I did recognize one word, that man called this woman. Bloodhound... This all bares further investigation. But, now is not the time for that.'

Balalaika looked back at the cartel members, as she mentally reflected, 'Also, I can tell that there are too many clashing egos for this to end peacefully. So, for right now, it would be best to let someone else make the next move. Because, the person that does is likely going to be the first person shot in this coming battle.'

'Though fortunately, my men are trained to be ready for battle, at a moments notice. And as such, we will come out as the victors to this egocentric folly.'

Balalaika turned to look at the chinese men, across the room, as she thought, 'Though, I am sure my men understand, as I do, that these chinese are not our enemies, at the moment. So, when the battle starts, we will all be fighting a common enemy.'

Balalaika turned back to look at the cartel members, as she concluded her thoughts, with a bit of grim determination in her mood, 'But, if these chinese get in our way, they will be crushed, like these cartel fools.'

(_)

Back at the table, by the front entrance, where Lee, Daiyu, River, and Matthew were sitting, near the entrance, to the left of the group of cartel members, Lee turned back to look at the other adults at her table. She asked, in a quiet tone of voice, so as to not alert the attention of the nearby cartel members, “Did Pedro just quote Gene Hunt, from the Life On Mars series?”

The other three adults at the table turned to look at Lee.

Daiyu softly answered, “Yes. He told me that was his favorite series... Next to mine...” She thought, 'And of course, it was him that girls were talking about, during their stay at the Black Sheep inn, inside Mars Dome One.'

River quietly stated, “I think Pedro and Matthew here just went badass on a dare.”

Matthew smiled, as he overheard River. He quietly said, “Looks like a mexican stand off. How poetic, considering it was started by a mexican. But, I cannot leave my client in a lurch like this. Daiyu, babe, do you know what my favorite part of your series is?”

Matthew then used his right forearm to slightly his bottle of rum closer to the edge of the table.

Daiyu soft replied, “I have a feeling it involves a standoff.” She thought, 'I will let the, babe, comment slide. This is not the time, nor place to address such meaningless insults. It is more important to find out what Matthew it getting at. The problem is that my series has several standoffs in it. So, I don't know which one he is talking about.'

Matthew quietly responded, “Oh yea. It was the one when Fabiola first came to Roanapur. When she entered the Yellowflag. I loved that fight. I find women that specialize in gymnastic styles of dance and combat to be my type. And it was so much fun in seeing how that fight started.”

Matthew continued used his right forearm to push the bottle ever so closer to the edge, right to the lip.

Lee was the first one at the table to notice what Matthew was doing. She looked at Matthew, in his face, as she asked, “What are you doing?”

Matthew smile turned into a wicked smirk, as he whispered, with excitement in his tone of voice, “Lighting the big bang, babe.”

Matthew used his right forearm to finally push the bottle off the table.

Matthew looked at the three women, as he continued smirking, while the bottle was falling to the floor. He quickly said, in a mocking tone, “Oops.” He then swiftly ducked under the table.

As the bottle hit the floor and shattered, one of the cartel members thought the glass breaking was a gun shot, and he shot towards the bar.

A split second later, the three women at the table with Matthew, dropped to under the table. They soon saw Matthew was gone, as he was crawling the left side of the bar counter, which was the entrance to behind the bar.

The shootout began, by the chinese and russians firing first, at the cartel members.

At the bar counter, instead of firing, Pedro swiftly used his right thumb to turn on the hammer safety to his pistol. He placed his right trigger finger against the trigger guard, as he fell back onto the bar table. He rolled to his left side, over the bar counter, and to the cover on the other side.

Roberta also turned, and jumped over the bar counter. With Benny and Dutch swiftly dragging Revy over the bar counter, with them.

(_)

At the front of the bar, Velasco, and several of the cartel members were the first to die, before they could take their first shots. While the other cartel members, shot wide, and did not hit anything, but the walls, due to the being shot themselves.

(_)

Near the middle of the room, Matthew crawled towards the left entrance to the back of bar counter, while he avoided the gunfire above him. As he crawled, he thought, 'I guess we will just have to call this bet a draw.'

(_)

A few seconds later, the russians and chinese finished shooting, with the cartel were laying on the floor, dead.

Both groups looked at each other. Though, while they had their guns still out, the two groups were not pointing their weapons at the other group, nor each other. And a few of them reloaded their weapons.

Chang pointed his pistols at a diagonal, downward angle, away from everyone, as he took a hard look at the russians, across the room. His attention was mostly focused on the blond woman among their group.

Chang thought, 'That was quick. And I can now talk to the blond woman, and maybe get some answers.'

'Because, I have a feeling she is the boss of her group. Given how casually dressed most of these russians are, and the only woman in their group is where a formal dress. I am guessing she is their leader.'

'And I have been occasionally watching her tonight, and I am sure she has done the same to me. Given both the way the russian men have acted towards her, and the way she has acted towards them. She is clearly not the trophy girlfriend of one the russian men. And while I do not know russian. The russian men all clearly seem to defer to her. That means she is there leader.'

'And except for the scar on her face and chest, she is not that bad looking. Though, I have been burned by foreign women before.'

Then, from both corners of Chang's eyes, Chang saw cartel members, carrying firearms, flood into the room, from both the front and back entrances.

Chang quickly took aim and fired as the front two of cartel members coming from the front foot, as he fired his pistols, killing two of the men at once.

The russians and the chinese also began firing at the cartel members coming into the room. Most of the cartel members died before they could return fire, due to the chinese and russians using the entrances to the room as choke points.

A few of russians and chinese even fired through the windows, at the cartel men that were foolish enough to try to break into the room that way.

Chang thought, 'Looks like I spoke to soon about this being over.'

Chang then noticed the blond looking him, as she made slowly made her way towards him.

Chang thought, 'She clearly wants to talk to me, as well. I think I will meet her half way. Though, she will likely be as vague about herself, as I will be to her.'

Chang then slowly made his way to the middle of the room, as he fired pistols at other cartel members, whom continued to pour out, from both the front and the back of the room.

(_)

Meanwhile, a few seconds ago, Balalaika fired her pistol again at another cartel member, as she slowly made her way to the finely dress chinese man, that was across the room.

Balalaika thought, 'Okay. I did not expect more cartel members to flood into the room, with weapons. This could be a problem. My men and I, are not prepared for a protracted battle.'

'Still, the chinese realize we are not their enemy. And my men and I are returning the favor.'

'Also, given all of the other men on that side of the room are just wearing black suit, while this man is wearing finer clothing, including a long coat and waistcoat. And he was the one among them that spoke. I am guessing he is their leader. Though, considering he is wearing sunglasses inside, I have my doubts, about his maturity. Still, I would like some answers as to how he knows Severo. I believe knowing this is the key to getting my men, and myself, out of this mess.'

'Though, it is fortunate these latin pigs don't know how to use the hardware they have.
While these chinese men clear do know how to use their weapons. With the man in the long coat being pretty good with those two pistols. Still, they are not at the level of my men, but they clearly appear competent in their shooting. And they have not shot at any of us.'

Balalaika then notice the chinese man, whom was using two pistols, had looked over her for a moment. Before he then took aim with his pistols to fire, as he slowly began to make his way towards her.

Balalaika continued her thoughts, 'Good he got my message. We will just have to meet in the middle and talk. But, I will be careful about what I say. And I am sure he will do that same.'

As Balalaika slowly made her way to the middle of the room, she fired her pistol at another cartel member, killing the man with one shot.

(_)

Around two minutes ago, outside the back of the bar, in the back parking lot, behind a row of various vehicles that belonged to his group, Severo stood next to some of his cartel men.

There was also a single, red, four door car, around twenty feet behind the men, with the left driver's side of the car facing the men.

There were street lights nearby, that gave plenty of illumination for them to see the back door, and each other.

Instead of leading from the front, Severo wisely choose to lead from the flank of the trap. Just in case things went wrong. And if need be, he could stop anyone from escaping out of the back of the building. Though, he had given that order, yet.

Severo thought, 'The Bloodhound is here. And when Velasco radioed me, I called in every man I have for this attack. Just in case. Most of them at located in front of the buildling, with the rest of my men are back here, with me.'

'And while the Bloodhound is a concern, so are the chinese and russians. I sent both the chinese and russians here, to keep them out of trouble.'

'Oh, the irony in that.'

'It is just tragic that the Bloodhound would have to pick this bar to duck into. And this poses a problem for me. Though, to be honest, the Bloodhound is more important than the meetings I had today. So, I will handle my orders in this manner. I will try to just take out the Bloodhound, with as little bloodshed as possible.'

'Valasco is even under orders to do just that.'

'With luck, and that will happen. We capture, or kill the Bloodhound, and leave with her.'

'As long as we don't drag out the situation, the chinese and russians will care less that we briefly interrupted their night. Especially, since I plan on informing them, afterward, that the Bloodhound is a very dangerous FARC terrorist that went rogue. They might even consider her a threat, once they know that. And they might thank me for taking her down.'

'And explaining when I met with both of them will not be a problem either. I will just say that it was a matter of me scheduling my time well. Chang and Balalaika might even appreciate that comment. The two of them strike me as the type that don't like people that waste time. Especially, their time.'

'But, if the chinese, russians, or both, get involved, I have to make sure there are no witnesses left alive in there. Which is the chinese, russians, and anyone else presently in the bar.'

'And after everyone in there is dead, I will make it look like the chinese and russians killed each other. With the Bloodhound getting caught in the crossfire. That way, I won't get blamed for screwing up those meetings.'

'The capo likely won't ask too many questions. And that way, I won't get the blame. And while I might not get a reward out of this. Gustavo will say I handle the meetings fine, which, by doing so, he will still put in a good word in for me. And I will likely be no worse off than I already am.'

'Also, getting my men to stay silent won't be a problem, because they are all loyal to me.'

'And if I do get promoted, I will make sure to reward Velasco's loyalty with the position I will leaving here. But, the Bloodhound, the russians, and the chinese, are all dangerious wildcards. I don't know what any of them are capable of. And this is another reason I had to call in everyone. The only person back at the villa, is Alice, along with few house servants.'

'Should the worst case scenario happen. I know this bar. There are only two ways out of this building. The front and back entrances. Both of which I have covered.'

'A few of my men will go into flush them out. As many as need. Nearly everyone inside eventually attempting escape out of the front, with my men at the front taking them out.'

'Meanwhile, I will be in the back of the building, with some of my men here with me. We will take care of any fools that try to come out of the building from this direction.'

'And should we got overrun, I will make my quick getaway, in a car I have parked behind me. It is within quick reach. The keys are already in the ignition. And the doors are unlocked.'

'Though, if I have to use this means of escape, this will likely mean going on the run from everyone. Including, my superiors. Still, it beats not breathing.'

Suddenly, Severo, and the other cartel members that were present, saw a man run out of the back door of building. The man saw them, and veered to his right, away from them, as he continued running.

The porch light, above the back door, and the street lights behind the cartel members, allowed the men to clearly see the man that had run out of the building.

One of his men asked, in spanish, “Should we let him go?”

Severo did not look at the man who as the question. Instead, he turned back to the back door, as he thought, 'Actually, I know that man. And I do vaguely recall someone I know telling me that he got a job at this bar. As such, I can alter my plans to use him.'

Severo stated, in spanish, “Yes. To make a proper example, someone must live to tell the tale. I know that man. And having a witness we can control will help us in my plans. So, we will catch up to him, later. I know he will not speak police. And we will talk to him, before he talks to others. So, that he will tell others know what we want them to hear.”

Severo thought, 'Now, back to the matter at hand. Velasco should wrap up in a minute. Besides, I know Velasco can be blunt, and a bit arrogant. Though, I doubt he can screw up this entire situation.'

A few seconds later, Severo heard gunfire. Severo looked towards the back of the building, as he thought, 'Ah Velasco, you should be done in no time.'

Severo then heard a more gunfire. A lot more gunfire than both his men, and the Bloodhound could have created.

Severo realized, as he thought, with worry, 'Ah hell, Velasco. You screwed up, and you pissed off both the russians and the chinese. But, don't worry, I will make sure you and my men that died with you, get a proper funeral.'

'Still, it is a good thing I plan ahead for such situations. I need to see if I can turn this around. I will have to send in most my men from both the front and the back.'

Severo turned to one of his subordinates, as he stated, “Order the men start making their way though both the front and back doors of the place. To flush them out. Since in small groups, at a time, from both entrances. As needed. I want you to kill everyone that is inside, or drive them them outside, for use to deal with. Especially, the Bloodhound. And I want no other witnesses. Also, have those in the front notify me if this battle starts to turn against us. Considering they can see through the windows, in front, to see what is happening inside.'

Severo mentally added, 'Just in case I need to make my quick escape.'

The man that Severo had talked too, pulled out his radio, and relayed Severo's orders.

(_)

At that moment, inside the bar, behind the bar counter, from left to right, was Roberta, Pedro, Benny, Revy and Dutch. All of them were sitting on the floor, as they used the counter as cover.

Fortunately, no bottles, on the shelves above them, had been shot. So, there was not broke glass by them, nor falling on them.

Dutch then noticed Revy get ready to stand back up.

Dutch ordered, “Sit down, Revy. This is not our fight. I am not going to let you get us involved in a local turf war.”

Revy turned to Dutch, as she whined, “How am I going to learn, if I cannot practice?”

Dutch countered, “You practice on targets that don't shoot back.”

Meanwhile, Benny was slightly unsettled by the gunfight going on nearby, as he said, “This is crazy. How the hell did we get into this situation?”

Pedro looked over at the Benny, as he smirked. He commented, “I ask myself that question, every day.” He turned to Roberta, as he asked her, in spanish, “Do you know english?” Pedro thought, 'I always wondered if you learned english before, or after, you came to work in the Lovelace household.'

Roberta answered, in fluent english, “Yes. And I am grateful to you, for your help. I was not sure how I was going to deal with that mess.”

Pedro responded, in english, “I am sure you would have figured out something. And you're welcome.”

Benny turned to Pedro, as he said, “You started this, Mexican. You got to help us.”

Revy, Dutch, and Roberta, joined in on looking at Pedro.

Pedro looked over at Benny, as he commented, in a calm tone of voice, “I don't got to do anything for you, blondie. But, I still might help you.”

Pedro then looked around the group of four adults, as he thought, 'I guess I am the experienced teacher in this situation.'

Pedro stated, “So, class is now in session for you four. The first rule is to remain calm. If you freak out, you will die.”

“The second rule you already understand. Get to cover as quickly as possible. In bar dives like this, always stick by the bar counter. You never know what may happen. And occasionally, bartenders have their bar counters armored for protection from gunfire.”

Pedro looked at the back of the bar counter, as he continued, “Though, I don't think this is case for this bar counter.”

Pedro then started looking around the group, again, as he went onto say, “Still, this cover is useful in many ways. Including, that fact I know of cases where the attackers used grenades to clear the building, right after they shot up the place.”

“The third rule is to never do this alone. Always have someone watching your back. Even if they are not fighting.”

Just then, Matthew crawl from the left side of the bar counter entrance, to sit by Roberta, behind the bar counters.

As the adults behind the counter turned to look at Matthew, Pedro stated, “Ah. My assistant has arrived.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he said, “Well, I got some bad news.”

Benny deadpanned, “Compared to this?”

Matthew let out a laugh. He looked over at Benny. He replied, “Yea.” He turned towards Pedro, as he stated, “The trio are here.”

Pedro cursed, “Damn.”

Dutch asked, “Who is this trio?”

Pedro turned to look at Dutch, as he answered, “They are not after any of you, so they are none of your concern. This just means we cannot go through the front door, to exit the building.”

Dutch inquired, with concern in his tone of voice, “Are you suggesting we crawl through that warzone to the front door?”

Pedro commented, “Not really. But, my lawyer and I have done that a few times.”

Dutch stared at Pedro for a second. He then flatly asked, “Do I want to know?”

Pedro replied, “No.”

Meanwhile, with Dutch distracted, Revy peeked her head above the bar counter, and what she saw amazed her.

In the center of the room, she saw two armed adults, back to back, firing at cartel members. One was a fair skinned woman, with long blond hair, in a red dress. She had a large scar running down the right side of her face. She held an automatic pistol in her right hand.

The other person was an asian man, with short black hair, in a black long coat. His coat had a white scarf draped from the back of the collar, to the sides of the coat. The chinese man was also wearing sunglasses. And the chinese man was using two semi-automatic pistols at once. One in each hand. And he seemed to be doing a fine job using both weapons at once.

Along with this, both adults seemed perfectly calm in the carnage surrounding them.

Suddenly, Revy felt someone pulled her back down, by the back of her shirt.

Revy turned around to see that Dutch was the one to pull her down.

Dutch looked at Revy, in her face, as he barked, “I told you to stay down. Now, get your head back down here, before it gets blown off.”

What happened next surprised Dutch. Instead of Revy mouthing off at him, she smiled at him, as she grew an excited look on her face. She said, in a near childish tone of glee, “Dutch, I want to learn how to shoot two pistols at once. I just saw someone doing it out there and it looked so cool.”

Dutch shook his head, as he stated, “Revy, this is not the time, nor place for that.” He thought, 'I will figure out what she saw, later.'

Pedro heard all this, as he thought, with amusement, 'Chances are Revy saw Chang use his two pistols at once... So, Chang was inspired to dual wield by Revy in book three, in Lee's stories. Now, it is revealed that Revy was inspired to dual wield by Chang... So, this is a closed, temporal loop... Cool...'

Pedro then looked to his other side, to see Roberta sitting back down. He continued his thoughts, 'And Roberta was also just looking over the bar counter. She probably saw Past Chang, as well. So, maybe her dual wielding style was inspired by Chang. I see she only had one pistol on her. And I recognize that model. All the flashes backs of Roberta in FARC, and even when she first met Diego Lovelace, showed she was only using one pistol at a time.'

'So, when Roberta just saw Chang, right now, she decided to train herself how to fire two pistol at once. And with her skills and experience, she became very good at dual wielding pistols... And that makes this crazy situation even more cooler.'

(_)

Next to Pedro, Roberta had just snuck a quick peek over the bar counter, to assess the situation, before ducking back down, to the safety of cover.

Roberta thought, 'They are right. We are not leaving through the front exit.' She looked over at the group of adults by her, as she continued her thoughts, 'For the moment, I think it might be best, if I just go with them. At the very least, being with them will decrease my chance of being shot.'

Roberta went onto think, with a bit of amusement, 'Although, the redhead here has a point. That two handed pistol style demonstrated by the chinese man, whom was standing next to the blond woman, is interesting. If I survive the next few hours, I might have to look into that style of shooting, later.'

(_)

On the bar floor, a ten feet from the other side of the bar counter, Balalaika and Chang stood back to back, as they fired and killed the cartel members, whom poured into the room from the various entrances.

The two leaders also noticed that both their forces were holding their own. And it became apparent that the cartel members were not very good shots. While both Chang and Balalaika’s men were.

Balalaika faced her men, on the right side of the room. While Chang faced his men, on the left side of the room.

Without looking at each other, the two adults casually chatted, as they shot at their enemies, while being careful not to shoot their allies.

Balalaika asked, in english, “So, how do you know, Severo?”

Chang responded, in english, “Likely the same way as you. I am guessing your group met with him today, also?”

Balalaika complimented, “Good guess.”

Chang commented, “So, who would send an army after one person? It is kinda overkill.”

Balalaika replied, “I agree.”

Balalaika thought, 'This Colombian Cartel disgusts me. To come in and start such an attack out in the open. They have no sense of propriety whatsoever. Especially, after we struck a peaceful deal with them, earlier today. Someday, I will destroy these fools, along with their superiors, and others in their operations, for their acts of stupidity, tonight.'

Chang thought, 'So, we both had a meeting with Severo today. And given my understanding of strong women. Especially, violent women, such as Shenhua. I am guessing she is already planning her revenge against both Severo, and his cartel he is with.'

'And I am more than happy to leave the revenge to her. I just want to get my men, and I, out of this mess in one piece... Though, I do want to know a little more about her. But, I will have to be vague about it.'

Chang asked, “So, where you from?”

Balalaika answered, “Moscow. You?”

Chang replied, “Hong Kong. It is nice to meet you.”

Balalaika responded, “Same here.”

Chang joked, “You know, it is a good thing that you have enough men to fill a hotel with. A Hotel Moscow. I am not sure my men alone could handle all these people.”

While shooting at a couple of cartel members, Balalaika mulled Chang's comment, in her mind. She said, in an amused tone of voice, “Hotel Moscow. I like it... Babe.” She thought, 'I will have to learn more about this gentleman behind me, when I have time. He has style. And I like that.'

Chang heard Balalaika, as he thought, 'So, she liked my joke. Nice. Though, given the circumstances, I will let the, babe, comment, slide.'

Balalaika and Chang then continued to fire on the cartel members.

(_)

Near the entrance, Daiyu was sitting under a table, with Lee and River. Even with the shooting, Daiyu's enhanced hearing allowed her to hear the conversation that Balalaika and her past, male self, were having.

Daiyu winced, as she overheard their more recent comments. She thought, 'If I had only known then, what I know now.'

River overheard Daiyu's thoughts, as she commented, “Could of, would of, should of. Don't worry about. Just learn from your mistakes.”

Daiyu turned to River, as she said, “Thanks, River.”

Next to the two women, Lee stated, “I cannot believe those two are the ones that started the whole ball rolling, for all of you. It is like a couple of small time arsonists getting a hold of a nuke, and knowingly setting it off where it would do the most damage.”

River said, “It doesn't matter now. Now, we just need to get out of here. I sense from the thoughts the next wave will not be here for another minute. With those outside all behind their vehicles, getting ready for their attack. If we crawl out now, turn right outside, and crawl along outside wall, under the window line, with us turning to the left side wall, we will be fine. Fortunately, the side walls have no windows. Though, we need to keep down, so we are no accidentally hit, from shots going their the wall.”

“We can then circle around, and see if we can save Pedro and Matthew from the back door.”

Lee said, “I am with you.”

Daiyu requested, “Lead the way.”

River stated, “Just follow me.”

River then started crawling on all fours, towards the front double-doors entrance, in which the front doors had been destroying.

Daiyu, and then Lee, crawled on all fours, right behind her, as they headed for the front exit.

(_)

Behind the bar counter, the six adults turned to see a group of armed cartel members, busting through the back entrance by the left side of the bar.

Only this time, the cartel members began to turn towards them, before the russians and chinese had a chance to kill the cartel members.

Without a second thought, Pedro used his thumb to turn off the hammer safety, as he fired a few placed shoots to their heads.

At the same time, Roberta, with her right hand, pulled out her own Argentinian model nineteen twenty-seven Sistema Colt semi-automatic pistol, using forty-five ACP rounds. With her ammo magazine holding seven rounds in total. She pulled back the slide, and she then fired a few round from from her pistol.

Meanwhile, Revy pulled out her M Nine pistol, with her right hand, from the back of her pants, under her black shirt. She then pulled back the slide on her pistol, loading a round into the chamber. Next, she quickly aim, as she flipped of the safety, and she unloaded her magazine into the last intruder that was still standing.

As the last cartel member fell to the ground, Revy had stopped firing. Matthew looked over at Revy. He saw, that from the fact the slide of her pistol was locked open, it meant that Revy's pistol was empty.

Matthew commented, “You has some serious impulse control problems.”

Dutch looked over at Matthew, as he deadpanned, “You don't know the half of it.”

Matthew and Pedro laughed for a few seconds at Dutch's comment, as Matthew thought, 'Actually, we probably do.'

As Pedro and Matthew calmed down, Pedro looked at Revy. He then turned to Dutch. He stated, “I have a feeling this is going to be a life long problem.”

Benny mental realized, 'These guys are laughing and joking, in the middle of a firefight... They are not afraid of the situation.' He commented, “You two are way too comfortable for this situation.”

Matthew chuckled a little. He then stated, “We have just been in this situation so many times that we have gotten use to it. I am sure you will get use it, as well.”

Benny replied, “I hope not.”

Matthew shrugged towards Benny in response. He then turned to Revy, as he asked, “By the way, is that an M Nine Beretta?”

Revy turned to Matthew, as she answered, “Yea. What of it?” Revy then used the slide lever to release the slide back in place. Next, she safety lever to decocked the empty pistol. After which, she tucked her pistol, in the back of her pants, under her untucked shirt, where it had been before.

Matthew responded, “Nothing much. It just answers a couple of questions my friend and I had on type of weapons, and how good they are.”

Pedro overheard Matthew and Revy's comments, as he thought, 'Like the in universe connection to why you, Revy, use a Beretta ninety-two FS. Still...' He complimented, “And it shows that my friend here has gained a good appreciation for weapons. And that you have good taste in weapons.”

Matthew and Revy said, almost in unison, “Thank you.”

Pedro replied, “You're welcome.”

Dutch turned to Revy, as he asked, “Revy, are you out of bullets?”

Revy looked at Dutch, as she said, “Yes. And we didn't have that many to start with.”

Dutch shrugged, as he replied, “True.” He thought, 'Though, you did not have to waste all your bullets on one guy. Though, if the battle has revved you up this much, maybe it is a good thing you are out of ammo.'

Dutch turned to look at Pedro, as he continued his thoughts, 'Still, this just means that we are going have to rely on others to get us out of here. And if that is the case, I want to first know where they are from?'

Dutch continued to look at Pedro, as he asked, “So Mexican, where are you guys from?”

Pedro looked at Dutch, as he thought, 'I can answer this, without truly answering this, while having some fun.'

Pedro explained, “The town we are from is in Mexico. The city is full of insanely violent, heavily-armed women. And they roped us into being their designated drivers, when they went out for drinks. That is how the lawyer and I first met, and became good friends. We are just two sane men in a sea of volatile, practically explosive, estrogen.”

Revy and Roberta were not sure how to react to Pedro's comment. Matthew just smiled. And Benny kept quiet.

Dutch held back a laugh, as he quipped, “I don't know whether to be turned on, or terrified by your comment. But, I can guess sanity is relative in such a situation.”

Matthew turned to Dutch, as he thought, 'I get what Pedro is doing. Now, it is my turn.' He continued for Pedro, “Quite right. Anyway, we were going on average two gunfights in a bar a month. Those are gunfights, not just bar fights. There were a lot more bar fights, than that.”

Matthew thought, 'Though, the gunfights were more like Revy just shooting off her pistols. Though, she was not shooting at anyone. And I am sure she is eventually going to get herself into trouble for doing that.'

'Also, the bar fights were went thing got too rowdy. Though, none of them tried to hurt us, unless we accidentally pissed them off. But, I don't want you guys to know that. I just want to pile on the bullshit. And I know just how to do it. By saying something, I always wanted to say this to Revy. But, I knew if I did, she would kill me.”

Matthew went onto say, in a casual tone of voice, “But hey, I did find something out that was interesting about one of the worst of them. She went by the name, Two-hands. I counted the days when Two-hands got really drunk. You might find that math a little interesting, because Two-hands almost got drunk the same time every month.”

Matthew looked around, and he saw Roberta giggling a little, Pedro had a calm expression on his face, Benny and Dutch had blank looks on their face, while Revy had rolled her eyes for a couple of seconds.

Matthew thought, with amusement, 'And the best part, Revy, is that I was talking about you. To your face. Without you ever realizing it.'

Meanwhile, Pedro was stifling a chuckle, as he thought, 'Nice one, Matthew. Even I didn't realize that. And most women just eat chocolates during that time of the month. I guess Revy here just needs something a little harder to consume. Still, I think I will add to this. Though, I cannot call her, Bloodhound, to her face. Fortunately, she has another title I can use.'

Pedro commented, “Speaking of crazy women. When I first met the maid, her student, and two-hands. The feral grin that the maid gave me, terrified me.'

Matthew took a quick look at Roberta, with just his eyes, before he looked back at Pedro.

Matthew thought, 'From the look on her face, she doesn't have a clue we are talking about her. Good. And I will avoid the Bloodhound title, as well. Considering you are using it, even now, Roberta.'

Matthew said, “Yea. Taken from personal experience, being freaked out by the maid, is a completely sane, rational response.”

Revy asked, “So, who is Two-hands?”

Roberta inquired, “Who is the maid?”

Pedro and Matthew both suppressed their laughter.

Pedro thought, 'I will let you handle this question, Matthew.'

Matthew looked over at Roberta, and then to Revy, as he cracked a grin. He commented, in a casual manner, “Don't worry. You'll both find out, some day.”

Dutch thought, 'As fun as this is. We need to get out of here.' He stated, “Okay. Enough fun. Let's get out of here, before one of these groups kills us. Since the Mexican and Lawyer have experience in these situations, let's follow their plan.”

Matthew commented, “I will let me friend do the planning.”

Pedro thought, 'It is good I experience in situations like that.' He turned to Matthew, as he stated, “Thanks...”

Pedro looked around the group, as he continued, “Okay everyone, here is the plan. We are going out the back. Keep low until we are in the hallway. Also, keep in mind, given these people are pouring in from the back as well, that they will likely have an ambush set up, right outside. So, we take this carefully, and we don't just run outside.”

Pedro turned to Roberta, as he went onto say, “You are going to lead them to the back door. Given these people were here for you, I trust that you can take point without any problems.”

Roberta looked at Pedro, as she replied, “You would be correct.”

Pedro said, “Good. I will be right behind you.” He then looked over at Revy, Benny, and Dutch, as he went onto say, “You three will be behind me. With my friend taking up the rear. Is that alright with everyone?”

Dutch said, “I am good with it.”

Benny commented, “As long as, I get out of this alive, I'm happy.”

Revy shrugged, as she casually said, “Whatever.”

Pedro turned to Roberta, as he stated, “Okay. Let's go.”

Roberta looked at Pedro, and she nodded once. She then turned around, towards the back door, as she held up her pistol, in her right hand. She then crouched down, as she slowly made her way to the door.

Pedro had his gun at the ready, as well. He pointed his pistol upwards, as he crouched down, as he made his way towards the door, behind Roberta.

Revy, then Dutch, then Benny, stayed low, as they followed right behind them.

As Matthew began to crawl behind Benny, he noticed two items under the counter. He pulled picked up the two items, and looked at them. He thought, 'Pedro will like these.'

Matthew then turned to see the others had left him behind. Matthew thought, 'I better hurry, and catch up. I know Pedro won't leave me behind. But, the others will.'

Matthew kept down, as he slowly made his way to the door. As he reached the hallway, he though, 'Which way did they go?'

Matthew looked to his left, then to his right. To his right, he saw, halfway down the hall, a dead cartel member laying on the floor. And near the end of the hallway, he saw Revy, Dutch, and Benny standing. Pedro was also standing further down the hallway, with his back to the interior wall. And Matthew also saw the door to the outside was open, with Roberta pocking her head out, every few seconds, as she used her pistol to shoot as someone, or something, outside of the bar.

Matthew stayed down, as he quickly make his way over to other adults. When he reached Revy, Benny, and Dutch, he stood up fully, as he walked over to Pedro.

Matthew asked, “So, how bad is it?”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he answered, “As I thought. They set up an ambush outside. There are at least sixteen armed men shooting at us, about nine meters away, behind some a blockade of vehicles.”

Roberta ducked back into the room, as she turned to face Pedro and Matthew. She stated, “Actually, there are twelve men left. I got four of them.”

Matthew and Pedro turned to Roberta, as Pedro replied, “Good.”

Roberta commented, “But, I am out of ammo.”

Pedro noticed that the slide to Roberta's pistol was locked in the open position. He replied, “No problem. I will take it from here.”

Roberts said, “Okay.” She released the slide lever of the pistol, allowed the slide to return to its position. Next, she pointed her pistol way from everyone, as she dry fire it. After which, she holstered her pistol in to the holster on the right side of her waist.

Roberta then backed away from the door. When she was clear of the door, she turned, and walked behind Pedro and Matthew.

Pedro looked down at his pistol, as he put the hammer safety back on, while he placed his trigger finger on the trigger guard, and pointed his weapon at the ground. He then used he left hand to pull out the nearly empty magazine.

Pedro looked at the magazine, as he thought, 'There are at least twelve men out there. There might be more behind their vehicle, when Roberta and I took a quick peek. I have only two bullets in this magazine, and one in the chamber. I am going to need a fresh magazine to do this right. Though, this should not be to much of a problem. I have faced worse.'

Pedro put away the nearly empty ammo magazine, and he pulled out a fully loaded magazine of ammo. Next, he kept his pistol pointed away from anyone, as he then inserted the full magazine of ammo into the pistol. He kept his weapon pointed at the ground, as turned off the hammer safety to the pistol, with his right thumb. Though, he kept his trigger finger resting against the trigger guard.

Pedro looked over at the other adults, as he said, “Okay. I guess this is going to require a more personal approach. I will just rush out there, and deal with them myself.”

Dutch, Benny, and even Revy and Roberta, gave Pedro looks of disbelief.

Roberta sorrowfully thought, 'And I was just getting to know this man.”

Benny flatly stated, “You're mad!”

Dutch mentally reflect, 'And I thought Revy was crazy.'

Revy scoffed, “Nice knowing you.”

Pedro commented, in a calm tone of voice, “Relax. I have done this before. Most of the time, I don't even get hurt.”

But, Pedro's only made the situation even more eerie for everyone, but Matthew, and himself.

Benny thought, 'It is clear that being around crazy women has driven this man insane. That does not bode well for Dutch and I, considering we live and work around Revy.'

Just as Pedro was able to turn around, and head for the door, Matthew, whom was still standing beside him, said, “Stop!”

Benny sighed in relief, as he stated, “Finally. A voice of reason.”

Matthew commented, “As your lawyer, I suggest, before you do this, that you take a hit from this little brown bottle.” He held up another fresh bottle of El Jimador Tequila in one hand. He continued, “And then use this.” He held up a metal baseball bat in the other hand.

Pedro cracked a grin, as he said, “And I thought you weren't going to share any?”

Matthew returned Pedro's smile, as he replied, “You know me better than that.”

Benny stated in disbelief, “The lawyer is as crazy as he is.”

Dutch asked, “That first comment sounds like a movie quote? Isn't it? I just cannot place the line.”

Pedro and Matthew looked over at Dutch. Pedro said, “Yep.”

Matthew stated, “Yes. It is. And a quote to a great movie, at that.” He then put the baseball bat under his left arm, locked to his left size, as he used both hands to open the bottle. Next, with the cap in his left hand, he handed the bottle to Pedro, with his right hand.

Pedro held his pistol in his right hand, as he used his left hand to grab the bottle. He toasted, “Mister Gonzo, to audacity.” He then took a swallow from the bottle, without gagging.

Pedro handed the bottle back to Matthew.

Matthew held up the bottle, as he replied, “Mister Duke, to audacity.” He then took a swallow of it, without gagging. Next, he put the cap back on the bottle, and held the bottle in his left hand. He used his right hand to pull the baseball bat from under his left arm. After which, he used his right hand to offer the baseball to Pedro.

Pedro took the bat in his left hand, by its handle. With him dropping the metal baseball bat to his side. He stated, “Thanks. That hit the spot.”

Matthew said, “You're welcome.”

Matthew bent down, as he gently set the bottle onto the floor, beside himself. He then stood back up.

Benny remarked, “Wait a minute. That line is from the book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It is a book. Not a movie.”

Pedro and Matthew looked at Benny, as both their smiles widened slightly. They then turned back to face either other.

Matthew stated, “Go kick their asses.”

Pedro held up the bat and his gun, as he replied, “Will do.”

Pedro then rushed out of the back door, as he first his first shot, killing one of the cartel members, behind the row vehicles, instantly.

Pedro ran in a curved, crescent, half circle, to his right, as he shot and killed any of the cartel members that didn't duck quick enough.

With each step Pedro took his smile got wider, as his eyes became more crazied.

As Pedro came within five feet of the row the vehicles, he ran out of ammo. He looked in front of himself, while he continued moving, as he gently toss the pistol, to his right side, onto the pavement, where he could easily find it, and in a way that pistol would not be damaged.

Though, with those eight rounds, Pedro saw he has instantly killed six of the men, and fatally injured a seventh.

After dropping his pistol to the ground, he grabbed his metal bat with both hands, just as he reached the vehicles.

Pedro then stepped onto the front, left side of a front bumper of a car in front of him, and he used the bumper to vault himself over the car. While in the air, he turned his body counterclockwise, to where he landed behind the men, on his feet, while facing the men, on the other side of the row of vehicles, from the people he was helping.

Pedro swiftly tore into the men, by using his metal bat in melee combat.

Pedro knew he was too close to the cartel members for them to get a clear shot without hitting one of their own, and he used that to his advantage.

And each blow the Pedro made with his metal bat, a cartel member were either instantly crippled, or out right killed from a death blow. He even left go of the bat with his left hand. And as he used the bat to hit some of the cartel members with his right hand, he used his left hand to slam some of the cartel member heads through a nearby car windows, with the glass from the windows severing various arteries and veins along their necks.

As Pedro did all this, he maintained his feral grin and insane look to his eyes.

(_)

At the moment, outside of the bar, on the left back corner of the building, near the back, Daiyu, River, and Lee kept low, and to the shadows, as they watched the carnage that Pedro was creating.

The back of the building was flush. And with the street lights, and the porch light, the three women could clearly see what was going on.

Daiyu said, “Sometimes I forgot how dangerous Pedro can be when not having to deal with super-human badasses.”

Lee suggested, “I think it is best if we lay off on them for a while.”

Daiyu replied, “We will talk to them after this. But otherwise, we will do as you suggest.”

River then noticed something else, as she said, “Look at the back door. It seems both Matthew and Pedro are having way too much fun tonight.”

Daiyu and Lee turned to look at what River had commented on. And whom they saw surprised them.

(_)

At the back door, the other five adults peeked their heads out for the door to watch.

Matthew watched his friend with pride.

Revy, Roberta, Dutch, and Benny watched with disbelief.

The five adults talked, as they continued two watch the one-sided fight.

Roberta commented, “The first lesson I was taught as a revolutionary was never intentionally run into the line of fire without someone first offering cover-fire.”

Revy said, “He's crazy.”

Roberta agreed, “Apparently so.”

Matthew stated, “You guys got to admit that the intimidation factor goes way up with a smile like that.”

Dutch saw Pedro's grin, as he agreed, “You got that right.”

Revy noticed the feral grin on Pedro's face, as she asked, “Where did he learn to smile like that?”

Matthew answered, “From the women that we have been forced to deal with back home. Some of them can shatter a metal knife blade into pieces, with their teeth, while wearing a smile like that.”

Roberta commented, “Unbelievable.”

It took all of Matthew's will power to burst out laughing at the irony, that Roberta of all people, would make a comment like that. Considering her future self was the one that did that.

As Matthew forced down his desire for laughter, he said, “The most interesting part is that my client doesn't even hold a candle some of the women we know back home. Especially, Two-hands, and the Maid.”

Dutch commented, “That is the second time you have mentioned those two.”

Matthew commented, “They are worth mentioning several times. They're that good.”

Dutch shrugged, as he replied, “I'll bet.”

Benny asked, “He is kicking all kinds of ass, and you say those women in your home town are worse?”

Matthew answered, “Yes.”

Benny inquired, “This place you two are from? Is it Hell?”

Matthew smirked, as he responded, “Nope. But, I am pretty sure the devil does own a hotel there. It is kinda obvious. Though, the nightly rates there are nice. The employees are polite. And the karaoke nights at the hotel bar can get pretty insane.” He mentally added, 'Though, I am staying at the casino, across town. But, I am not going to tell you four, that.'

Dutch commented, “You clearly are living interesting lives.”

Matthew let out a laugh. He then said, “You don't know the half of it.”

Dutch thought, 'Touche.'

The five adults then continued watching the battle in front of them.

(_)

By that time, in the back parking lot of the bar, on the other side of the row of vehicles, the last surviving, but badly beaten cartel member, whom their leader, Severo, was laying, with his back against a car, as he looked up at the crazy man with the metal bat.

Severo quickly stated, in spanish, “Wait! I am the leader of the local group of the Manisarera cartel. We can cut a deal.”

Pedro thought, 'So, this is the reason Balalaika hates the Manisarera Cartel. This finally answers that question. Still, as leader of this group, this man is responsible for this mess, and he needs to pay.'

Pedro still showed the crazed look in his eyes, and the feral grin on his lips. He said, in a sadistic tone of voice, in spanish, “Given the number of your men that I have seen killed inside, and those I killed outside, it is a safe bet that, as of right now, the Manisarera Cartel no longer exists in Caracas. And a king cannot exist without a kingdom. Thus, the only thing you can offer me is the satisfaction of killing you. Because the only other thing I loath more than wasting lives, is incompetence, such as what your, and your subordinates, have shown.”

Severo thought, with sorrow, 'All my men are dead... Oh no... At least I need to know who my executioner is.' Severo pleaded, “At least tell me who you are? What are you?”

Pedro continued to grin his slash grin, as he said, in english, in a sadistic tone of voice, “I am the creature from the Laguna Negra.”

Pedro then used his metal bat to beat Severo to death with repeated blows to Severo's head.

When Severo was dead, Pedro use Severo's clothing to wipe the blood off of his metal bat.

Pedro then held his bat in his left hand, as he walked between a two feet gap, between two to of the cars. Next, he head over to where his pistol laid. When he reached his pistol, he came to a stop. He bent down, with his knees, as he used he right hand to pistol up his pistol by its grip.

As he stood up straight, he looked at his pistol, with the slide automatically left open.

Pedro thought, 'Well, it doesn't look damaged. Nor, dirty. Nor, even seriously scratched. I will clean it, later. Fortunately, I have the cleaning tools and items in my coat. Also, I am happy that I didn't get hurt in this fight. Though, it is clear these guys never before met a heavy hitter of my skill level.' He then used the right thumb to release the slide lever, with the slide going back in place, as the empty gun's hammer was cocked back.

Pedro pointed the weapon at the ground. And he dry fired it. Next, he holstered his pistol.

Pedro then turned to look towards the back entrance of the building.

He saw all five of the adults were now standing outside.

Roberta stood in front, with Revy to her right. Behind Revy was Benny, and to Benny's left was Dutch. To Dutch's left stood Matthew.

With Roberta and Revy standing in front of them.

Pedro thought, 'Now, to have some more fun, and likely win my bet with Matthew.'

Pedro casually started walking toward, as he used placed his metal bat behind his neck, as he held both end of the bat with his hands. With his left hand holding of the handle of metal bat.

Pedro could see the fear coming from the facial expressions of Revy, Roberta, Benny and Dutch. And this fear was not because Pedro was covered in both. Actually, due to his experience, he knew how to give a massive beatings to people, with baseball bats, without getting himself from dirty from both.

As such, there only a few drops of blood on Pedro's clothing, and his metal bat.

The reason the four adults were scared of Pedro was that he was still maintaining his slasher grin, and wild, crazed look in his eyes.

Along with this, Pedro appeared to be unharmed.

There was an eerie, unpleasant silence, as Pedro approached the other adults.

Pedro came to a stop, a few feet in front of Revy and Roberta, as he looked down a them, with his feral grin, while they looked up at him, with looks of fear showing in their eyes and facial expressions.

Pedro also noticed, behind the two women, looks of fear from Benny. And a bit of fear showing on Dutch's face. Though, Matthew maintained a sense of calmness.

Pedro thought, 'I guess their sanity hasn't full cracked yet. And once someone shows a person what is possible, they usually learn how to do it themselves. And I guess this is now just one giant temporal loop for all of us.'

Meanwhile, Matthew watched Pedro, as he maintained a mask of calmness, as he saw that Revy, Dutch, Benny, and Roberta, were clearly scared of Pedro, at the moment.

Matthew thought, with amusement, 'Pedro, I never thought I would enjoy watching you give someone the third degree, crazy type stare. But, with these four, it is worth enjoying.'

(_)

From the corner of the building, Daiyu, Lee, and River, watched Pedro scared the crap out of Roberta, Revy, Benny, and Dutch.

Daiyu commented, “I didn't realize that Pedro was this crazy.”

Lee asked, “Is he scaring Roberta and Revy?”

River answered, “Yes. And he loving every second of it.”

(_)

By the back door, Dutch reigned in his fear, as he thought, 'Okay. This guy can be scary, but so can Revy. Especially, during that time of the month for her. And being trapped with Revy, on a boat, with her, during that time, is like being on bomb disposal detail. One wrong move and something blows up in your face. And you pray she is not armed at that moment...'

'Still, I need to loosen the tension, before someone snaps, and somebody does something stupid.'

Dutch said, “I am glad you survived. Amen. Hallelujah.”

Pedro dropped his insane expression, as he let out a laugh, which eased the tension for everyone there.

Pedro looked over at Dutch, as he stated, “And peanut butter.”

Matthew snickered at Pedro's comment, for a few seconds.

Dutch thought, 'I may have to remember that one.'

Pedro left go of his bat with his right hand. He then used his left hand to toss the bat away from him. After which, he dropped his hands to his side. And he used his right hand to pull something out from one of his coat pockets.

Pedro looked over at Roberta, as he said, “Here.” He tossed her a spare ammo magazine.

Roberta caught the ammo magazine. She looked at it, and she quickly realized that it was both full of ammo, and that it would work with her Argentinian model nineteen twenty-seven Sistema Colt semi-automatic pistol. She pulled out her pistol, and she replaced her empty ammo magazine with the full magazine that had seven round in it.

Next, she holstered her weapon, and she placed her empty ammo magazine into an empty slot on her four slotted ammo pouch, on the left side of her belt.

Roberta looked over at Pedro, as she stated, in a happy tone of voice, “Thanks.” She then took a few steps closer to Pedro, as she used her arms to pull him down, so she could give him a kiss on his lips, as she hugged him.

Pedro returned Roberta's kiss, as he embraced her.

(_)

At the left back corner of the building, in the shadows, Daiyu, River and Lee's jaws dropped at what they saw.

Daiyu asked, “River, would she have done it with him?”

River flatly answer, “If she had the time. Yes.”

Lee commented, “You got to admit, Pedro is not that bad of a catch.”

River and Daiyu looked at Lee.

Lee stated, “I have seen both sides of him. He is a badass and polite. You cannot go wrong with that combination. I know, with you two.”

River replied, “Thank you.”

Daiyu commented, “I appreciate that.”

Then, all three women turned back to look at the scene taking place, nearby.

(_)

At the back door, Roberta broke her kiss and her embrace with Pedro. And Pedro did the same for her, allowing for Roberta to take a few steps back, while Pedro leaned up straight.

Roberta said, in a grateful tone of voice, “Thanks again, for the help.”

Pedro gave Roberta a warm smile, as he replied, “Any time.”

Dutch looked a the group, as he commented, in a calm tone of voice, “Not to ruin the mood. But, the cops are going to show up soon. We all got to get out of here, while we still can.”

The other five adults turned to look at Dutch. And Dutch looked over at Roberta. Dutch offered, “Would you like to come with us? You seem be good in a fight.”

Roberta responded, in a calm tone of voice, “No. There is likely a price on my head. And I do not want want to drag you into my problems. I have a friend of the family here that I wish to look for help, first. For some supplies. I will then flee the country, by myself. In my own way. Of my own choosing.”

Dutch nodded once towards Roberta. He then replied, in a polite tone of voice, “I completely understand. And good luck to you.”

Roberta commented, “Same to you.”

Benny turned to Pedro, as he sarcastically said, “Thanks. I might have nightmares about this night for years to come.”

Pedro turned to Benny, as he responded, “Nah. And if you go through this enough times, you might even get use to it.”

Dutch overheard Benny and Pedro. He chuckled a little. He then said, “Now that is a scary thought.”

Revy stated, “Good luck you guys. Thanks to you, I now know the type of gunfighter I wish to be.”

Matthew joked, “I doubt it is too much to hope that you will be an honest gunfighter.”

Matthew and the five adults smiled in response to his comment.

Pedro said, “I hope you all have a safe journey, and a great life.”

Roberta turned to Pedro, as she warmly responded, “You too, Mexican.” She thought, 'Looks I will have to get a ride back to the Lovelace estate, tonight. But, I should be able to get there before dawn. I might even be able to get a few hours sleep, outside their home, before I knock on Senor Lovelace's front door, in the morning.'

Revy snorted, as she said, “Yea. I guess, you to.”

Benny replied, “See you later.”

Dutch stated, “Have a safe journey, yourselves.” He thought, 'Now, we need to find a taxi before the police get here, and start to cordon off the roads.'

Pedro turned to Dutch, as he said, “Thanks.”

Matthew looked over at Revy, as he stated, “See you all in a few decades, red”

Revy turned to Matthew, as she responded, “I will be waiting to collect on that bet then, lawyer.”

Matthew smirked, as he replied, “I hope you have the money then, to pay me.” He thought, 'I know you will.'

Revy returned Matthew's smirk, as she said, “We'll see.”

The lagoon members then head towards to the right side of the building. While Roberta went directly left, in a parallel direction with the river, behind the bar.

Pedro and Matthew watched as the four other adults disappeared into the darkness.

After the two men lost sight of them, Matthew turned to Pedro, as he asked, “So, would you have done with the Bloodhound, if you had the time?”

Pedro looked over at Matthew with a lecherous grin on his face. He honestly answered, “Oh, hell yes. She is still somewhat sane at this point in her life.”

Matthew shrugged, as he said, “True. Now let's get out of here.” He then started walking towards the left side of the building.

Pedro complimented, “Good idea.” He then caught up to Matthew, with him walking beside Matthew, to Matthew right side.

As they continued walking, Pedro inquired, “So, who do you think won our bet?” He mentally added, 'Matthew is honest enough to not immediately claim victory, unless he has a good reason too.'

Matthew complimented, “Well, you did hit a home run with that baseball bat, in your battle, just now.”

Pedro replied, “Thank you.”

Matthew pointed out, “Though, if those inside the bar had learned you were a police chief, you might not gotten out of that bar alive.”

Pedro stated, “Nah. I would just remind them that this is not my jurisdiction. And that I had no interest in causing any trouble.”

Matthew responded, “But, you caused the most trouble of the night.”

Pedro cracked a grin, as he replied, “I know. That is the fun part.”

Both men laughed for a few seconds, at Pedro's comment.

As they calmed down, Pedro asked, “So, who do you honestly think won the bet.”

Matthew said, “I would have to say it was a draw. I dropped the bottle to get everyone to start firing. Though, you got everyone to pull out their guns.”

Pedro agreed, “I can go along with that.”

Suddenly, to their left side, they heard a River say, “Hi guys. How was the fight?”

Pedro and Matthew came to a stop, as they turned left to face Daiyu, River, and Lee.

Pedro continued to stand to Matthew’s right side, as the two men looked a three women that were after them, whom were approaching this.

Though, the three women also noticed the two men were very calm.

Daiyu thought, 'They certainly are calm. But, after tonight. I can understand that.' She said, “You two have cause quite a ruckus tonight.”

Daiyu then came to a stop, ten feet from the two men, with River and Lee then stopping right beside her.

Pedro replied, “Uh huh.”

Daiyu asked, “Is that all you have to say for yourselves?”

Pedro calmly retorted, “What do you expect me to say?”

River turned to Daiyu, as she kindly requested, “Relax. It is clear they have had a busy night.”

Daiyu turned to River. She shrugged, as she said, 'I believe that is the case.' Daiyu and River then turned back to look at Pedro, and Matthew.

Lee looked at Pedro and Matthew, as she asked, with concern in her tone of voice, “Are you two okay?”

Pedro happily answered, “Great. Couldn't be better.”

Matthew said, in a casual tone of voice, “I am fine.”

Lee commented, “Good. Pedro, River read both your mind, and Roberta's mind. I don't believe you were going to sleep with her.”

Pedro shrugged, as he said, “I am starting to see the appeal of that crazy women have.”

River said, “Thank you.”

Pedro looked over at River, as he said, “You're welcome.”

River smiled at Pedro, as she mentioned, “By the way, if Roberta had the time, she was planning on sleeping with you.”

Pedro returned River's smile, as he said, “Cool.”

Lee stated, “Be that as it may. Given what you just tried, you are quite the hypocrite to have made fun of Rock and Garcia, in their relationships with crazy women.”

Pedro turned to Lee, as he pointed out, in a slightly annoyed tone of voice, “Hey. I remember that conversation. And, at the time, you agreed with me. Besides, you are one to talk. Given who you are in bed with. No offense, River, and Chang.”

River said, “None taken.”

Daiyu commented, “I have heard worse.”

Pedro went onto say, “Hell, you are now a crazy woman, yourself.”

Lee smirked, as she replied, “And proud of it.”

Daiyu and River smiled at Lee's comment. While Matthew remained silent.

Pedro just rolled his eyes for a second, before he looked back at the three women in front of him and Matthew.

Pedro thought, 'Now, to get out of here.' He commented, “Well, sorry we cannot stay and chat, but we are in kind of a rush.”

Pedro then pulled out their reality device from a coat pocket, with his right hand.

Matthew said, “See you later.” He turned to his friend, as he requested, “Thrill me, Pedro.”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he replied, “With pleasure, Matthew.”

Pedro vaguely thought about where he wanted to take them next, as put his left arm gently on his friend's right shoulder, while he used his right hand to pressed the red button on their reality device. Thus, making them both jump to a different reality, as they disappeared from the three women in the blink of an eye.

The three women continued looking forward, as Lee stated, “Those two guys are going to be a lot harder to control, from now on.”

Daiyu said, “And we have only ourselves to blame.”

River suggested, “Well, either way. There is not rush in heading after them. Since we are here, in Caracas, we might as well spend a few days here, and enjoy ourselves. And by doing so, we will give Pedro and Matthew a fair, head start.” She thought, 'I will get a target lock on their next destination, in a few minutes.'

Lee said, “I won't mind spending some time here. It gives me an excuse to brush up on my spanish.”

Daiyu responded, “I am okay with staying for a while.”

River stated, “So, let's get something to eat. And then we will find a nice hotel to stay at. I hear this city has a lot of nice restaurants, and hotels.”

Daiyu said, “I am more than happy for you to pick wherever you want to go.”

Lee commented, “Since fixing my body, I have been open to trying new and tasty foods.”

River smiled, as she requested, “Then, follow me. I remember Garcia mentioning a wonderful place to eat, near here, that is open all night. And the place has been open since Garcia was a young child. So, I know it exists at this point in time.”

River then started walking to their right, along the river. With her two lovers following her through the parking lot, and soon down a sidewalk, to where she wanted to take them to eat. And then, they planned to find a place to get some rest at.

(_)

As Daiyu, Lee, and River, left the area, to get something to eat, in the building, inside the bar room itself, the battle was over, and things had calmed down. Though, everyone still had their firearms in hand.

At this point, all the cartel members were dead, save for one or two that wisely never entered the bar, and fled into the dark streets of the night.

Surprisingly, the tables, chairs, and bar counter, were mostly in one piece. While the walls were swiss cheesed. With the doors, the shelves on the walls, the bottles on the shelves, and the windows in the room, were destroyed.

And Chang and Balalaika with their groups.

On the left side of the room, Chang looked around, as he sarcastically muttered, in english, “Well that was fun, and stimulating.” He then turned to his men, as he asked, in chinese, “Has anyone been hurt? Or killed?”

One his men turned to Chang, as he replied, in chinese, “A few of our men have some bullet grazings. But, nothing serious. And none of us have been seriously harmed, nor killed.”

Chang let out a sigh of relief. He then said, “Good.”

Meanwhile, on the right side of the room, Balalaika looked over at Boris, whom was ten feet away from her. She calmly inquired, in russian, “Sergeant. What are the casualties?”

Boris turned to face Balalaika. He stated, in russian, “None, Captain. These cartel members clearly how no knowledge of how to properly use their weapons.”

Balalaika lips curled into a wicked grin, as she responded, “Then, that is fortunate for us.”

Boris looked over at the chinese men, across the room. He looked back at Balalaika, as he questioned, “So, what are your orders, concerning the chinese men?”

Balalaika looked over at the chinese men. She thought, 'They are clearly no in the mood to fight us.' She turned back to look at Boris, as she answered, “Nothing for the moment. Still...” Balalaika looked back over at Chang, as she stated, in english, “I believe it is time to leave, Mister Hong Kong.”

Across the room, Chang realized Balalaika was talking to him. He turned around to look at Balalaika, as he said, in english, “I agree Ms Moscow. And I hope you, and your men have a pleasant night.”

Balalaika suggested, “You as well. Though, it might be best if you and your men leave first. Then, we will follow after you... I do believe that neither of our groups want to be here, when the local authorities finally decide to show up.”

Chang thought, 'She is making a good point. They are not going to shoot us in the back after this battle. So, I will accept this act of good faith.' He replied, “Alright.” He turned to his men, as he stated, in chinese, “Gentlemen. We are heading out, back to the hotel.”

The chinese men then filed out of the room, through the front entrance, with Chang leading in front, as they headed for the cars they had rented, which were parked in a nearby parking lot.

Across the room, as Balalaika watched the chinese men leave the room, for the outside, broken windows, Boris walked over to Balalaika, as he whispered, in russian “Do you wish for them to be taken care of, as they leave?”

Balalaika continued to watch chinese men leave, as she softly replied, in russian, “No. Tonight, they have earn their right to live for another day... Though, tomorrow is another day, and an entirely different matter.”

By then, Balalaika watched as the last of the chinese men had left. She then waited one minute. Next, she turned to her men, as she ordered, in russian, “Time to move out, and head back to the hotel.”

The russians then began filing out of the room, through the front entrance, with Balalaika being in the middle of the group.

The russians then headed for the cars they had rented, which were parked in a seperate parking lot from the chinese, which was near to the parking lot that the Chang's men had used to park their cars at.

Both mafia groups had reached their vehicles, and were well on their way to their respective hotels, which were two different hotels, in different parts of the city of Caracas. With the police finally showing up twenty minutes later.

The only tasks left for the police were to begin collecting the bullet casings and corpses.

(_)

The morning after the gun battle between cartel members, against the russians, chinese, and others.

It was early morning. The temperature was still cool from the night air, but not cold, on a sunny day, just after sunrise, outside of Caracas, at the Lovelace plantation.

The estate was classic two-story rectangular, spanish style plantation home, on a plantation farm. The building had a rectangular courtyard, open to the outside, in the center of the building. Covered balconies lined long sides of where the second story met the outdoor courtyard. An alcove line the first story, around the courtyard. In front of the alcove, around the courtyard, except for the breaks that served as entrances to the courtyard, the area was lined with bushes and trees. With the bushes becoming so big that they need to be pruned back down to a much more modest size.

When facing the home, from the front, there was a small pool, on the back left corner of the courtyard. To the left of the pool was a path that lead into through the alcove, and down an open hallway, to the back yard of the plantation home. Though, the back entry way was actually to the left side, when facing the front of the building. The hallway had arches and pillars, which were styled and painted in the same manner as the arches and pillars on the first floor of the courtyard. All of this was to support the second story above the hallway.

There were four arches on the ceiling of the hallway. With three sets of pillars, space evenly, like the rest of the pillars.

One set of pillars was set against the courtyard side of the building. Another set of pillars was in the middle. And the last set of pillars was set on the outer side of the building.

The walkway of the hallway stretched from the inside, to the end of the outer wall, where it narrowed to where only the middle two archways faced the walkway. The walkway at this point was made of rectangular cement blocks, set evenly, with the long ways of the blocks facing the walls of the building.

The cement block walkway continued through the backyard, until it reached the double-door linked rod iron gates, of the rod iron fence. The gate doors had curve tops that met together, to form a crescent shape at the top of the gate. The sides of the gates were attached with long, concrete pillars. With the rod iron fence being attached to the other side of the concrete pillars. The top ends of the rod iron fencing had spears where the iron rods ended.

When facing the gates, in the back, right corner of the iron fence, was a wooden, tool shed, that face across the grassy yard, including the walkway that divided the yard.

The backyard itself was an extension of the gardens of the courtyard. With, among other things, bushes lining both sides of the walkways. Then, to concrete potted plants were set up on concrete blocks, that faced across from each other. Beyond the potted plants, there were a row of three small, narrow trees, which lined both sides of the walkway, to the gates.

When facing the tool shed, there was a small, rectangular garden of bushes to the right of the tool shed. The garden was walled at the bottom, with concrete crown molding, and set a few inches above the rest of the backyard.

And these were not the only concrete and metal fixtures in the gardens of the outside of the Lovelace home. In the courtyard, there was a concrete fountain. There was a table, with chairs around in, that had a tree nearby, that offer shade from the sat around the table, in the chairs.

And though there were metal bars on the outside of the windows, even the metal bars were ornate.

There was not one thing on the exterior of the building that was mundane, nor low class. The only two exceptions to this was that the exterior need some touch up work on the paint, and some vines were growing up the wall.

Presently, someone had walked up to the front of the double-door entrance to the estate, and that person began knocking on the door, for a few seconds.

A minute later, from inside the building, Diego Lovelace walked to his front double-doors of his home, to find out whomever was knocking on it.

Diego was man of average high, with a fair physical build. He was in his late forties, if not his early fifties. With his dark hair and mustache nearly completely grayed due to his age. Though, his hair and mustache were well groomed.

Diego wore a pink, long sleeved turtle neck shirt, light brown pants, brown leather belt, and dress shoes.

When Diego reached the double-doors, he unlocked and opened the door, to his right, to see who it was.

In front of Diego, he saw a women in her mid-twenties, wearing green combat fatigues, and a green military cap on her head. She had blue eyes, and long purple hair, that was tied in a ponytail. Also, she has a duffel bag slung over the back of her left shoulder. And she had a firearm holstered in a side holster, on the right side of her waist.

But, it was the women's face that caught Diego's attention. There was a sense of desperation, for help, in the woman's expression and eyes, that prevented him from ignoring her, and just shutting the door.

The woman said, in spanish, in a kind, but hurried tone of voice, “Hello Senor Lovelace. I apologize for disturbing you as such at early hour. But, I need your help. My name is, Rosarita Cisneros. My father was Hernan Cisneros.”

Roberta thought, 'I am glad I was able to find someone to take me back here, last night. With a few hours to spare for rest, before I had to get up and talk to Senor Lovelace. That way, I will be able to get what I need, and immediately leave.'

Diego raised an eyebrow, as he thought, 'This woman is the daughter of my best friend, Hernan... Now, that I think about it, he did have a daughter. But, it has been several years since I have seen either of them.'

Diego asked, “How is Hernan?”

Roberta softly answered, “He died, years ago.”

Diego quietly said, “Oh...” He thought, 'That is sad to hear.'

Roberta thought, 'Now, to explain further...' She continued, in the same desperate tone of voice, as she had used before, “A long time ago, my father told me that if ever I needed any help, and I had no one to turn too, that I should come here, to seek you out for help.”

Diego calmly responded, in spanish, “Well, Rosarita. Hernan and I were best friends. Though, we drifted apart over the years. Still, remained friends. And I do see the family resemblance between the two of you. You are beautiful, as he is handsome. Also, I remember you father bringing you here, when you were very young, when he came to visit us. “

Roberta commented, “I vaguely remember those visits, as well. Though, I prefer to be called, Roberta. And I do not mean to impose. All I need are some supplies, and I will be gone with the hour.”

Diego thought, 'So, what supplies does she want from me? And to do what? From her clothing and pistol, I can guess that she has had a most unpleasant life. And she has likely done some unpleasant things to other people.' He calmly inquired, “And what supplies do you need?”

Roberta answered, “Food, a few cans of sterno, a few other supplies, and some hiking tools that I need replacing. Then, I will be on my way.” She mentally added, 'I might be pushing my luck if asked for bullets for my pistol.'

Diego questioned, “What do you need those items for?”

Roberta said, “So, I can make my way through the mountains.” She thought, 'It would be unwise to tell anyone that I am heading the harbors, north of here, that are over the mountains.'

Diego thought, 'She just wants a few items, and then she plans to leave. But, I cannot just help Hernan's daughter, then turn around and allow her to leave so quickly... No matter what she has done.'

Diego kindly offered, “How about we talk about this, inside, in my study?”

Roberta replied, “That will be fine.”

Roberta then thought, 'But, before I enter your home. I am going to have to tell you the truth about myself.'

Roberta then looked down, at her feet, as she said, with sorrow in her tone of voice, “But, before I enter your home. I have to be honest with you. As you have likely guessed from my attire, I have not lead an honorable life. I have come to realize that now. I have done many horrible things, that lead me to have a violent reputation. You see, I am also known as the Bloodhound of Florencia. And if you wish for me to leave, immediately, I will understand, and I will comply to your wishes.”

There was silence between the two adults, as Diego thought, with trepidation, 'My best friend's daughter is the Bloodhound of Florencia. And she is clearly in desperate need of help. And she is turned to me for that help...'

Diego then tempered his concerns, as continued his thoughts, with more pragmatism, 'I honestly hope that her father's death did not steer her down this dark path. Still, if she is willing to be this honest, and upfront. She will not present an immediate danger to myself, nor my son. Actually, she might even be able to help us, in her own ways. With her own skills. Though, I will have to be delicate in how I handle her.'

Diego said, in a calm, warm tone of voice, “Roberta, you are still welcome in my home. Please, come in. We have much to discuss.”

Roberta looked up into Diego’s eyes, and Diego saw hope in Roberta's eyes, as Roberta said, with thankfulness in her tone of voice, “Thank you, Senor Lovelace.”

Diego replied, “Diego, is fine.”

Roberta replied, “Then, thank you, Senor Diego.”

Diego smiled, as he thought, 'I will say this much. Hernan at least taught Roberta her manners.' He requested, “Okay. Now, please come inside.”

Diego fully opened the door, to his right, and he held it open, as Roberta walked inside, while she carried her duffel bag.

When Roberta was clear of the doorway, Diego gently shut and locked the door behind him.

Diego turned to Roberta, as he kindly said, “You can leave your duffel bag here.”

Roberta turned to Diego, as she calmly responded, “I would prefer to keep it with me, for right now.”

Diego replied, “If that is what you wish. My study is this way, up the stairs.”

Diego then casually walked passed Roberta, and deeper into his home, with Roberta calmly following behind him.

(_)

A few minutes later, Diego lead Roberta to his second story office, near the front of his home.

The brown, wooden double-doors to Diego's office were open, with Diego walking inside first.

Roberta followed a few step behind Diego. But, as Diego continued walking into his office, Roberta came to stop, as she stood, and she looked around the room.

While velvet curtains in the window, on the wall to her right, was closed, the light coming in front around the windows allowed to still see the room fairly well, in a bit dark.

The floor itself had black and white tiles, in a checker configuration. Though, the tiles were cut in a way that they were diagonal to the walls of the room.

Over the tiles was large red, rectangular rug, with gold borders, that covered most of the room.

The walls were painted blue, with brown wooden trim around running along the bottom of the wall.

There were pictures that were hung on the various walls of the room.

On the wall wall behind her, and in front of her, there were electric lamps make to look like gaslight lamps. The lamps were turned off.

To her right, in front of the window was a desk set near the window, in the middle of that side of the room. The desk faced towards her, with a chair between the desk and the window.

To the left of the desk, on far corner of the wall was a book case that faced towards the desk. Roberta saw several type of books, and book tiles, along the bindings of the books on the shelves of the case.

On the other side of the desk, in the corner, was a five feet tall, leafy, green bamboo palm, that was set in a potted plant container.

To Roberta left, a meter from her, set in the middle of the room, was a set of furniture. There was a small wooden rectangular table. Behind the table, was a cushioned, wooden bench, with green cloth covering the cushions. The bench had arm rests that were also cushioned, with green cloth covering the cushions.

Between Roberta and the bench, there were also two wooden cushioned chairs set across from each other, from the table. The chairs were armless, but the were made of the same style as the bench, with green cloth covering the cushions of the seats.

Roberta then turned her attention back to Diego. She saw the man walk over to the right side of his desk.

Diego came to a stop, as he turned around to face Roberta. He offered, “Please, sit down, and make yourself comfortable.”

Roberta calmly replied, “I would prefer to stand, for right now.”

Diego mentally realized, 'She is more desperate than I realized. She is ready to bolt at any second. I need to handle her much more carefully than I realized.'

'I am glad I decided to let Garcia sleep in this morning. Our little shopping trip in the city tired him out. Which was good. And now, I can handle this, without him being here. Which is for the best.'

'Now, to handle the matter at hand. Since this is my best friend's daughter. I cannot turn her away. No matter what Roberta has done Hernan would never forgive me.'

Diego said, “First, Roberta. Take a deep breath. You are in my home. And you are now safe.”

Roberta responded, “Experience has taught me that, safe, is a relative term for people such as myself.”

Suddenly, both of them heard knocking from the front doors.

Roberta thought, with sadness and disappointment, 'I hate being right.'

Roberta watched Diego walked over to the window, and opened the red velvet curtains, as she continued her thoughts, 'If I am right. This study is right over the front entryway of the building. So, he should be able to see who is out there, from this vantage point. That being said, I need to keep my distance, so as to not allow anyone from the outside to see me.'

Roberta saw that the window itself was a paned glass, with wooden panel. There were ornate bars, running up and down, outside of the window.

Roberta back around the bench to her right, as Diego looked down to see who it was.

Diego saw several men standing beside his front door. The men were wearing either police uniforms, and military fatigues. And though they were armed, only a few of them had their firearms in hand. The men were armed with either semi-automatic pistols, automatic rifles, or both.

A little further out, from his home, he saw police cars and military trucks parked on his concrete driveway.

As Diego continued to look down at them, he thought, 'I am not surprised they showed up. Though, I did not expect them to be here so soon. Still, this should be of little consequence. I am more concerned with keeping Roberta calm, than be able to turn these people away.'

'Also, even though she was tired from yesterday, Garcia should be waking up, within the hour. If this knocking has not already awaken him.'

'Though, I do look forward to introducing my son to Roberta. But, that is later. I need to concentrate on the here and now.'

Roberta asked, “Who is it?”

Diego turned to Roberta, as he smiled. He kindly said, in a calm tone of voice, “Not to worry. I will take care of it. Though, it is the police and military. I hazard to guess. But, I believe they are here, looking for you.”

“Though, rest at ease, as a member of one of the thirteen prominent families of South America, I have some political pull with not only the government, but the local military and police, as well...”

“I will simply have to remind them of whose plantation this is, and I will use my political pull ask them to leave.”

“And what use is political pull, if one does not use it to help their friends?...”

Roberta was mildly surprised at how kind Diego was in delivering his news. She said, “Thank you.” She thought, 'The bar fight last night must have attracted their attention. And someone nearby must have recognized me. But, Diego seems very confident that he can handle this. Before my father died,, my father said I could trust him. And Diego would even welcomed me into his home, right after I told him who I was. So, I will trust him, and I will hope that my trust is well placed.'

Diego calmly responded, “Just stay here, and do not go near the window. This should not take long.”

Roberta watched as Diego then calmly walked passed her, and out of the room. He left the doors to the office open, as he head for the front double-doors, downstairs.

After Diego was out of sight, she couched down, behind the right side of the bench, with her facing the wall the double-doors to the room were located. She pulled out her semi-automatic pistol. Next, she pulled back the slide of the pistol, to chamber a round, while cocking back the hammer of the weapon. After which, she held her gun with both her hands, with her right trigger finger resting against the trigger guard of the firearm. The end of the barrel of the weapon was pointed at a downward, diagonal angle, away from them.

Roberta kept her eyes on the doorway, as she thought, 'This is about as good an ambush point as I can create in this situation. Now, I just hope I don't have to fight my way out of here.'

The next few minutes for Roberta were slightly stressful for her. A minute after Diego left, the knocking on the front doors stopped.

A few minutes later, Roberta then heard a single set of foot steps approach the room she was in.

When Roberta saw that it was Diego, and that he was alone, she breathed a sigh of relief.

Diego closed the wooden doors to his office, behind him. He then turned around, as he made his way further into his study.

Roberta found it interesting that Diego did not even bat an eye in her position, as he turned to his right, with him casually walking to the window, behind his desk.

Diego came to a stop by the window, he looked down to see the police and soldiers getting into their vehicles.

A few seconds later, while Diego continue to watch what was going on outside his home, as the vehicles started to drive away, he calmly stated, “You can come out now, Rosarita. They are leaving, now.” He thought, 'It is best to use her real name, this time, to stress the importance of the situation.'

Diego then closed the right side of red velvet curtains on the window.

While still couching behind the bench, with her gun drawn, Roberta thought, 'Senor Diego is using my real name, as a sign of respect. And I should return that respect, by leaving as soon as possible, to prevent my problems from further risking him harm.'

Roberta carefully used her right thumb to decock the hammer of her pistol, while she used her right trigger finger to successfully release the hammer, without the weapon going off, as she said, in a regretful tone, “Sorry about the trouble. I'll leave as soon as the sun goes down.”

Roberta thought, 'The police and military will probably stake out this estate. So, leaving after dark is my only option, which will keep Diego from getting into trouble with them.'

While Diego closed the left side of the red velvet curtains, he had a warm smile on his face, as he responded, “Don't be in such a rush.” With the curtained closed, he turned to look at Roberta, as he continued, “My best friend's daughter has clearly traveled a long hard road. And it would dishonor my family name if I did not show her some hospitality.”

Diego then started calmly walking towards Roberta, around the right side of his desk, while he maintained his warm smile.

Roberta noticed that smile, and Diego's smile helped to relax a bit.

Diego continued walking towards her, as he calmly offered, “We should sit for a while, and talk. Maybe even discuss your future. Sound good?”

Diego came to a stop in front of the set of furniture, as he looked down at Roberta, whom was still crouching behind the bench.

Roberta turned her head to look up at Diego's face.

Diego went onto say, “I think running for you life, through the mountains, can wait. In my opinion.” He then shrugged both his shoulders, closed his eyes, while he smiled, and lightly laughed, for a few seconds.

As Diego stopped laughing, he kept a warm smile on his lips, while he opened his eyes, and looked down at Roberta.

In response, Roberta visibly relaxed. She stood up, as she allowed her left hand to let go of her pistol, leaving only her right hand holding the grip of the pistol. Next, she holster her pistol, in her side holster.

Roberta turned to face Diego, as she thought, 'Diego has a point. I am not anywhere, anytime soon. And he did get those after me, to leave. So, I am safe for the moment. As such, I might as well take Diego up on his offer.' She stated, “Yes. You make a good point. Running through the mountains can wait.”

Diego responded, “Good. My young son should be waking up, anytime now. I look forward to introducing you to him.”

Roberta asked, in a calm tone of voice, “You have a son?” She sadly thought, 'Oh yes. Now, I remember. That is what those I spoke to yesterday morning, had told me. In my haste, I had forgotten. And just by coming here, by my actions, I could have brought harm, or death, to another child.'

Diego answered, in a warm, kind tone of voice, “Yes. His name is Garcia.” He continued, in a slightly sad tone of voice, “Unfortunately, my wife, his mother, passed away, a few years ago...” He then went onto say, in a more positive tone of voice, “But, that is in the past. We should focus on the here and now. And I believe it might be best if we just introduce you to Garcia, as simply, Roberta. When we see him, in a little while.”

Roberta pointed out, “I agree. Though, children can be quite curious.”

Diego said, “I can assure Garcia knows his manners. And he will not ask you about your past, unless you give him reason to do so.”

Roberta sincerely replied, “Then, I will strive to be on my best behavior.”

Diego mentioned, “That is good to hear. We also have a white fur Volpino Italino named, Lazlo. Though, he is quite friendly. So, he should not be a problem.”

Roberta pointed out, “I do have not problems with animals.”

Diego happily stated, “Wonderful. Now, before we introduce you to my son, we need to get you a fresh change of clothing.” He mentally added, 'Something less threatening, nor imposing. And I have just the clothing in mind.'

Diego suggested, “I believe that a former maid whom use to be in our employ was around your size. And we do have a few sets of her work clothing still in one of the closets in the servant quarters. Also, there is a washroom, with a nice titled shower, by servants quarters. With all the amenities already there. If you feel the need to wash up, first. Take your time. There is no rush. And you can leave your belongings in the servants quarters. I promise you that no one will disturb them.”

Diego thought, 'Because no one else is here, beside, you, Garcia, Lazlo, and myself. Still...' He verbally continued, “That is if you don't mind wearing a maid's uniform?”

Diego mentally reflected, in a calm, pragmatic manner, 'If I am right, you are not the type to just sit idle, Rosarita. Or, as of now, Roberta. All I need to do is present the tools before you, say the proper words, and you should do the rest.'

Roberta calmly answered, “I am not one to complain about what is given to me.”

Roberta thought, 'I will get a shower, before I put on some clean clothes. I will even leave my hair loose, because it will make me look less imposing.'

'Though, the heat outside might not allow that workable. In which case, I will have to put it back in a ponytail. But, I will see if that is the case. Later, I might even put my hair in two pigtails. I believe I would look cute, with my hair like that. And with none of my comrades around, I can get away with doing that, without being teased.'

'I also believe I might get some glasses, eventually. Even with my long purple hair. Between the pigtails, glasses, and maids uniform, it would make a decent disguise, compared to the revolutionary look I have now.'

Diego thought, 'Good.' He said, “Well then, right this way.”

Diego then turned to his left, and walked to the closed doors to his study. He opened the doors, and walked into the hallway, with Roberta following right behind him, as they headed to retrieve Roberta a few set of clothing... Maid's clothing...

And the rest is history...

(_)

An hour later, in Caracas, at a modest level hotel, Alice was in a suite she had rented, for that past several months, under another alias, so as to no alert Severo, nor the cartel he had been with. The reason Alice rented out this hotel was they allow long distance phone calls, without asking questions. As long as Alice paid the long distance fees, afterward.

While Alice wore a yellow sun dress that match her long blond hair, she was not wearing yellow slippers. Instead, she was wearing some white socks and white tennis shoes, because she was concerned she might have to do a lot of running, at any moment.

Presently, Alice was on the phone with her superiors. It was a long distance phone call, with Alice holding the receiver in her right hand, up against her right ear, as she and her contact were discussing what had happened, and what she should do next. Given her assignment had just abruptly ended.

Alice stated, into the phone, in english, “It was not my fault that my assignment gutted his own organization...”

“How was I suppose to know my assignment was going to pick a fight with the russians, and the chinese, he had met with, earlier that day?...”

“Yes. I saw the local news on the event. They have been talking about it all night. That is why I am not in his home, and I am calling you from here, right now. I got out of there the moment I heard about what went down...”

“I am aware there have been no arrests...”

“Yes. I know this is only going to make the press talk about it even more...”

“We both know this assignment is over...”

“Glad you agree. Where am I going next?...”

“A fishing village, in Thailand? As what?...”

“A nun at a church?!...”

As Alice's contact firmly spoke to her, over the phone, Alice forced herself to reign in her emotion.

As soon as Alice's contact finished speaking, Alice stated, in a firm, even tone of voice, “Yes sir. I will do it. And I will also brush up on my bible verses. Is the King James Bible version okay?..”

“Good. Okay. So, what is my new codename? Who is the name of my contact there? And what is the general description of my contact, whom I will be meeting with..?

“Okay. I will be out of this county, and meeting my new contact, by the day after tomorrow. I will let you inform you, after I meet with my contact...”

“Thank you.”

Alice slammed the phone down, back on its hook, as she finally allowed herself to get angry over the situation she found herself in. She thought, with anger, 'They are making me the scapegoat out of this whole fiasco. And there is not a damn thing I can do about it.'

'But, my contact sounds interesting. While she is not with the agency, my superiors still vouch for her. They say she has worked with their organization since the very beginning. And she is very good at what she does. They said she is an old woman, whom is disguised as a nun. She has a eyepatch over her right eye, and she answers to the name of Yolanda.'

'I wonder what her personality is like? Meeting her could offer an interesting insight, of what I would have to expect for myself, if I lived to be her age.'

'And if I am going to have to wear a habit all the time, and I am going to add some style to it. Such as wear some sunglasses. My new assignment may make me cover up everything else, but my face. But, in that case, I will just have to show some style on my face, with some cool sunglasses.'

'Also, I am not going to be celibate, like my superiors requested I do, during this assigned. I love to live my life to the extreme. I enjoy skimpy clothing, action, sex, and everything else that is fun in life. The only things I am careful about is not getting pregnant, nor getting an STD.'

'But, I am not going to stop living, just for an assignment. Especially, one that could be viewed as somewhere where I can be forgotten by my superiors. Though, that could offer opportunity, for me to make some money on the side. I will have to think about that.'

'But, I am not going to put this Yolanda, in an awkward position, either. That would be bad for both us.'

'And once I have my contact's daily routine down, I can skip out on her, occasionally, in my civvies, and have some fun in town.'

'Still, I will also feel out this Yolanda, and slowly see if I can trust her. If I can, I believe she might be very useful to me. At the very least, as the voice of experience. And we both might be able to make some money, on the side, from the situation we find ourselves in.'

Alice looked over at her suite, on the bed, as she continued her thoughts, 'Now, to get out of here.'

Alice walked over to her suitcase, on the single bed in the room. She picked it up with her right hand, by the handle. She then turned around, as she walked over to the door of her suite, that lead to a hotel hallway. She opened the door, and walked into the hallway.

Alice shut the door behind her. She then started walking down the hallway, towards the elevator, that would take her to the lobby.

Alice walked down the hallway, as she thought, with mild interest, 'I also wonder if I can get use to my new codename? Alice, wasn't bad. But, this new one concerns me. It just don't sound right to me. I mean, what is the first thing a person thinks, when they meet a woman, who goes by the name of, Eda?...'

(_)

A few minutes later, in another part of Caracas, inside another hotel, in the privacy of her suite, Balalaika had slept well the previous night. She had already awoke hours ago, with her getting up, ready, and dressed, to face the day, military precession.

Balalaika had already summon room service to bring her breakfast to her room. With breakfast already being delivered. With the bellhop being polite to her.

She found the breakfast to be adequate. After which she called the staff, by phone, to pick up the cart. The bellhop soon returned to retrieve breakfast cart, with Balalaika giving the bellhop a respectable, financial tip for being polite to her.

Presently, right after the bellhop left, Balalaika stood up, on the carpeted floor, as she dialed a long distance number on her hotel phone. Which was allowed by the hotel. With the long distance contact fees being added to her bill, when she and her subordinates, checked out.

Now, Balalaika was talking on the phone with her superior in the russian mafia, Pyotr, which she, and her men, now belonged too.

Balalaika left out parts of her story from Pyotr. Such, as the chinese men being there, and her letting them go. But otherwise, she was perfectly straightforward and honest with Pyotr.

Balalaika held the phone receiver with her left hand, against her left ear, as she firmly stated, in russian, “I make no excuses for my part in this. They threatened us, and we responded in kind. Along with this, I have no causalities to report on our side. So, I am pleased with the outcome.”

On the other end of the line, Pyotr, calmly responded, in russian, “You misunderstand. We are not upset with you. I was just on the phone with the capo of those you dealt with last night. In truth, he was not happy with his subordinates. Which you took care of.”

“He was starting to suspect there was a leak coming for that part of his organization. Unfortunately, he had no way to deal with it, without purging that part of his organization, and risking an internal rebellion. Now, with you and the others cleaning up the capo's mess, his hands are clean, and he does not have to worry about the leak.”

Balalaika thought, 'So Pyotr, you already heard about the bar fight, before I call you. You called the capo of the Manisarera cartel, concerning the matter. Then, after you were finished with that call, you waited for me to call you about this matter. To see what I would tell you on this matter. Next, you subtly hint that you knew what had happened before I call you.'

'I now realize how you reached your position in this organization.'

'Still, this does concern me. You had to get the information from someone? And I am concerned with how much do you know? I doubt there is a leak among my men. They are to loyal, and to closed knit.'

'Though, the police here could have already done ballistics from the shell casings during the fight. There would be many shells from rounds of Soviet ammo, on the floor of that bar. And that would raise someone's attention. With you quickly putting two and two together, that it was us, at the bar.'

'But, either way, I am now boxed in a trap that you had me set for myself. After telling you everything else, while neglecting to mention the chinese men. If you do know the truth, then I am in a no win situation.'

'If I back down and admit to that I willfully withheld information from you, I would lose face to both you, and your organization. Which would ruin not only my future, with you organization, but the futures of my men.'

'But, if I don't say anything, then I am guilty of a lie by omission towards you.'

'Either way I lose. Though, in such a case, it is best to not to say anything, and I will just have to hope that you didn't learn that Mister Hong Kong, and his men were at the bar, last night, as well. With me letting them go. And myself hoping that this omission does not bite me in the ass, later.'

'Still, I need to confirm one item on this matter. Though, from your words, Pyotr, I believe you already know the answer.'

Balalaika inquired, “So, there will be no reprisals?”

Pyotr flatly said, “None.”

Balalaika thought, 'So, there well be no reprisals, Pyotr. Just as I expected, after listening to what you just said, about your talk with the capo. You probably called the capo to smooth things over with him. To prevent a costly mob war between us, over the stupidity of the capo's own subordinates.'

'Though, in my eyes, that does not let the capo, nor his Manisarera cartel, off the hook for last night. But, I do admire you efforts and success, Pyotr.'

Pyotr calmly offered, “And given the performance of you, and your men, we would like you to oversee our operations in a part of Thailand. Your main functions there will be will dealing with our Indochina connections. Making movement of products through the area. Though, we will allow you to also pursue private operations in the area. As long as you send us the proper percentage from your profits of those ventures.”

“If you can handle yourself there, as well as you did yesterday, I feel you have a bright future with our organization.”

Balalaika though, 'Well, this is fortuitous.' She asked, “What city will we be assigned to?”

Pyotr answered, “A little fishing village, on the east coast of Thailand. The city is known as, Roanapur. Though, do not let looks deceive you. This city is quite dangerous. Even for you, and your men. During your stay, you will soon find that city to be as dangerous as some of the locations, during your time in the middle-east.”

Balalaika cracked a smile, as she replied, “I like the place, already. What will I be facing when we reach there?”

Pyotr stated, “While local law enforcement there can be easily bought, there are other organizations from around the world. Much like our own. That send proxies groups, such are you and your men, to that city try to take control of the trade routes there.”

Balalaika said, “Give my men a week, and we will be the only ones left standing.”

Pyotr countered, “Unfortunately, such tactics will not work in this situation. As much as I am sure we both detest this, there are political matters to take into account of. If things get out of hand there, we will draw attention from the major powers.”

Balalaika bit back the sarcastically remark she desired to give new her boss, Pyotr.

Pyotr continued, “Though, as long as such actions are kept out of the eyes of the public, a respectable amount of violence will be overlooked in that city. But, to take control of the city. You will need to do employ slow, meticulous methods. Unless you are provoked, open warfare will not be tolerated by your group.”

Balalaika questioned, “So, it will be a cold war with the other organizations?”

Pyotr replied, “Yes. Those are the tactics you will have to employ.”

Balalaika stated, “I am well versed in such tactics.”

Pyotr flatly said, “Which is why I giving you this assignment.”

Balalaika caught the singular word, in Pyotr's comment. She thought, 'So, I. Not, we. And you are the one who is personally behind giving this assignment to myself, and my men. Though, I need to know more about this assignment.'

Balalaika asked, “Besides these organizations. Is there anyone of note, in that city, that I should be made aware of?”

Pyotr answered, “Yes. There is local competing organization, that has sent a group from Hong Kong, to Roanapur. The leader of this group, in Roanapur, is named, Chang.”

Balalaika requested, “What can you tell me about this, Chang?”

Pyotr answered, “While Chang likes to present a casual and social front, in day to day affairs. Underneath the civility, he is as ruthless as you are. Chang prefers to fight using two semi-automatic pistols at once. Like in the modern kung-fu actions movies.”

“Along with him being very skilled with his pistols, he is also skilled in hand to hand combat. There are also rumors that there is a woman in his group that is very skilled with long knifes, and throwing knives. Though, we do not have much information on this woman.”

“It seems Chang likes to keep his secrets. And his men are almost as loyal to him, as you men are to you. So, learning about him and his group, has lead to some... Difficulties...”

“As such, he will have surprises for you, when you do finally confront his group.”

“Another facet of Chang's personality is that it has been reported that in battle, he even enjoys making jokes while fighting. My sources even tell me that Chang was in Caracas, yesterday. You might have already met him, without realizing it.”

Balalaika thought, with amusement, 'Really?... Could he be?... Maybe...' She then realized, as she continued her thoughts, 'And you know I met with the chinese in the bar last night. And instead of calling me on it, you are rewarding me for what I did yesterday.'

'By allowed Chang and his men go last night. I made a good first impression with him. Which will only benefit myself and my men, in our new assignment, which will be in opposition to Chang.'

'But, I cannot let you know that I realize this.'

Balalaika said, “I look forward to meeting this, Chang. How long will it take for our travel arrangements to be made? And a place for us to stay?”

Pyotr responded, “Not long. Though, you may find our headquarters in Roanapur to be a little odd. We have been using a cargo ship, moored in the harbor, for our base of operations.”

“The ship's name is the, Maria Zeleska. The cargo ship has been refurbished to be a mobile command center. Those that you will be replacing stated they found the ship to fit their needs... At least, until Chang dealt with them one night. We had one survivor, whom told us what happened.”

Balalaika inquired, “Are there are any repairs that will need to be made, when we arrive? And has the ship been swept for electronic bugs?”

Pyotr answered, “The ship is intact. And it already has been swept for bugs. I sincerely hope you have better luck than the previous group we sent to that city.”

Balalaika firmly stated, “I assure you, what happened to your previous group, will not happen again, on my watch.” She mentally added, 'I will have to find a more permanent base in the city. Somewhere that can be more secured. Though, that ship could be useful, if my men, and I, needed to travel.'

'Also, it was Chang that dealt with this. This is another reason you are giving ups this assignment. Not only do we have the training and abilities to protect ourselves from Chang. But, Chang has seen us in action, and thus he will think twice about coming after us, in a similar manner.'

Pyotr said, “I look forwards to seeing you prove yourself correct. By the way, have you finally chosen a name for your group?”

Balalaika cracked a grin, as she thought, with amusement, 'Why not?...' She answered, “Yes. Hotel Moscow.”

Pyotr inquired, “I like it. And do you have a name for your front company.

A thought occurred to Balalaika, as she mentally reflected, 'I might as well, considering I find the flower to be beautiful, and I like the name.' She stated, “I believe so. The Bougainvillea Trade Company.”

Pyotr responded, “That sounds nice. You will be contacted later today, at this hotel, after your traveling arrangements have been made. My associates, and I, are looking forward seeing what you can do. Good luck.”

The other end of the line then went dead. A second later, Balalaika lowed the receiver back on the hook.

Balalaika then stood in place, as she reflected on the conversation she just had, the previous nights actions, and what she now had to look forward to, in the near future.

A few seconds later, Balalaika lips curled into a wicked grin, as she began maniacally laughing, for several seconds. She was laughing, due to her realizing that she had found someone with the skills to grant her a proper death, or a worthy challenge. Depending on her mood.

Balalaika continued to laugh, as she wickedly smile, while she recalled some english lyrics to the song, Light My Fire, by an old band, The Doors, that she had listened to, a few days ago.

Balalaika stopped laughing long enough, to softly say, in english, “Come on baby. Light my fire. Try to set the night on fire. Yeah.”

Balalaika then began laughing again, for several seconds. Until finally she calmed enough to where she could begin preparations for moving herself, and her men, to their new home, in Roanapur, Thailand.

While, she waited for superiors in the russian mafia, she was with, to leave a message at the front desk, to simply call her back. Which was code, for they had their travel arrangements ready, and they need Balalaika to call them back, so she could be informed of the details.

(_)

At the same moment as Balalaika and Pyotr had ended their phone call, in Maiquetia, on the tarmac of the Simon Bolívar International Airport, Chang was walking up the steps to his private jet.

Chang two bodyguards, whom accompanied him in his private jet, had turned to face his back, while they stood on the tarmac.

Meanwhile Chang's pilot and co-pilot, were doing the final checks, to make sure they were ready to leave. This included checking instruments, and the amount of fuel they had. Which was a full tank. In addition, they had just finished confirming clearance, from the control tower, on when they could take off for Don Mueang International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Though, in truth, the jet would be heading to Roanapur, Thailand. With the proper Thailand officials already notified and bribed to look the other way, dealing with the detour, Chang's jet would be making, once the jet entered Thai airspace.

While Roanapur did not have an official airport, right outside the Roanapur, hidden in the jungle, on land that Chang's organization controlled, Chang had made a small, hidden runway, and hanger, for his private jet.

And it took a few hours, by car, to go from Bangkok to Roanapur. Which Chang felt was to risky, from a security standpoint. So, he arranged to make his own small look concrete landing strip, with lights on the landing strip, and hanger beside where the jet landed.

Though, for everyone whom knew about Chang little airport, they found it surprising to learn that Chang did not use it form smuggling.

For Chang only used that landing strip solely for traveling, and in case he needed to make a quick escape out of Thailand.

Actually, Chang allowed the local officials to also use his small landing strip, in exchange for not saying anything about it.

Though, the officials had to charter than own private planes, and there was not a hanger for their planes. So, they had to land the planed, refuel from an on site fuel truck, that Chang kept there. And then leave.

Presently, just as Chang was about to take his last step, into his jet, he stopped moving, and he just stood there, without saying a word.

A few seconds later, one of Chang's bodyguards, behind him asked, in chinese, with concern in his voice, “What is it, sir?”

Chang turned to face his two men, as he calmly said, “I feel as if someone just walked over my grave... But, it does not matter. We have places to go, and people to meet.”

Chang thought, 'At least none of my men were killed. Though, a few were lightly wounded, but they should soon recover. And those first class tickets back to Thailand will help with their morale.'

'Though, onto another matter. When I get back to town, I will be sure to let Abrego know that his offer turned sour. But, I will let him, and his organization live. It would be too boring, if I killed off all my competition.'

'Besides, Abrego knows to respect me. And I am just finally starting break that south american asshole in. And I don't want to have to deal with another asshole that does not know when to show me the respect I deserve. Also, to be fair, there was no way he could have known his colleagues would have so wildly drop the ball on this. Or, bottle in this case. Too bad I was not paying attention to who dropped that bottle.'

'Though, that is a mystery for another time.'

'Still, that russian blond woman was interesting to meet.'

'Anyway, I do not like leaving my city unattended, for too long. And I feel that I need to return there immediately. It feels like a storm is coming on the horizon. One that I should get ready for.'

Chang turned back towards the his jet. He then entered his jet, with his two bodyguards following him, into the airplane.

A few seconds later, the door to the jet was raised, and the airplane was soon sealed.

Ten minutes afterward, Chang's jet received clearance that it was their turn to take off. And the jet was soon in the air, and onto its journey back to Roanapur.

(_)

Later that sunny morning, hours after Dutch, Benny, and Revy had cast-off from the docks of La Guaira, in their PT Boat, the newly named, Lagoon.

Presently, their PT boat was heading west, at a casual rate for the engines of the boat, in Caribbean Sea, safe in international waters.

Fortunately, the night before, after they left the bar, in Caracas, they soon found a taxi to take them back to where their boat was moored, in La Guaira. When they reached the docks, Dutch paid the driver, and they all headed to the Lagoon.

At that point, even Dutch admitted they were to tired to head out. So, they got some sleep on the Lagoon.

At the crack of dawn, Dutch woke up, and he then woke up Benny, and Revy. They then got the Lagoon ready to leave. After they had finished their check lists on the boat, they had some breakfast. And then they left the docks, without any problems.

As they made their way further out to sea, the weather was warm and sunny, with a light breeze. And the sea was mostly calm. Perfect sailing weather for a boat, such as the Lagoon.

The voyage had been pleasant, except for one problem. Revy would not stop talking about the chinese man she saw in the bar that used two pistols at once. She went on and on and on, about the matter.

And she was working on both Dutch and Benny's last nerve.

Presently, all three adults were in the pilothouse of the Lagoon. Revy and Benny were standing, as Dutch as in the pilot's seat of the boat, which was the left seat, behind the control panel, at the front of the pilothouse.

Revy stated, in an excited tone of voice, “I cannot believe what I saw. Sure, I have seen using two pistols at once, in the movies before. But, to see first hand. To know someone can do that successfully in real life, and that it was awesome, is something else entirely. I have got to learn how to do that!”

Dutch thought, with annoyance, 'If she continues talking about this for another hour. I might try to throw her off the boat, which would be a bad idea for both of us. I do not even know if she has her gun with her. Or, if she has already reloaded her weapon. And she's has too much potential to allow this to ruin our business relationship. And the somewhat tenuous friendship the three of us have going.'

'Though, our trust for each other is slowing growing the day. But, I believe it is best I do something before one of us gets upset over this.'

Dutch turned around in his chair, to face Revy. Revy and Benny noticed this, as they turned to look at him.

Benny thought, with relief, 'Finally, Dutch is going to put his foot down on this matter.'

Dutch said, in a calm tone of voice, “Revy. I promise we will look into finding you someone to teach you how to do that when we reach our next destination. But, please... Put a lid on this, until then.”

There was an awkward silence between the three adults, as Benny and Dutch were wondering if Revy was going to lose her temper.

Instead, Revy shrugged, as she smiled. She happily said, “Okay...”

Benny thought, 'This is not the way I expect you to handle this, Dutch. But, it worked.'

Revy continued, “I am going outside to get some fresh air.” She then walked out of the room, and towards a hatch that would take her to take her outside.

A few seconds later, after Benny and Dutch heard a hatch open, and then close, both men let out a sigh of relief.

Benny commented, “That went well... You never know with her.”

Dutch agreed, “You can say that again, Benny-boy. That woman puts the temperament in temperamental women.” He then turned back to face the front of the ship.

Benny walked around to sit in the co-pilot's seat, as he turn his head to look at Dutch. He commented, “Dutch, I have been thinking about those two guys we met last night. They seem very... Off... Yet, they acted like the knew us, very well.”

Dutch turned his head to look at Benny, as he replied, “You are not the only one that thought that. Those jokes of theirs seemed be about us, in some ways.”

Benny stated, “I know this is going to sound strange. And a little crazy. But, I think those two are time travelers. And they know us from far in our future.”

Dutch admitted, “That thought occurred to me, as well. Let us say, if you met someone in the past, you admired, before they hit it big, how would you act around them, without giving yourself away?”

Benny answered, “I would make a few jokes, do a little small talk, and have few drinks, with the person from the past. Just have a good time with them...” Benny then realized, as he continued, “Which is what they did with us.”

Dutch stated, “Exactly. But, can you tell me why you think that?”

Benny explained, “First, those comments they about the book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I vaguely remember reading on the internet about movie studios talking of making that book into a movie. And it would make for an interesting movie.”

“Though, the way those two acted, it was like they were quoting a movie, not a book. But, it is the lawyer's bet with Revy that makes me really think they are time travelers. He bet her that she would not end up with a business man from Japan within twenty years. This is a two grand bet, with a contract and a picture. Only a person from the future, with knowledge of the future, would make such a specific bet with someone from the past.”

Dutch commented, “And since even now, we realize Revy doesn't have the best memory in the world, she will likely forget about the bet, before she even meets this person from Japan.”

Benny responded, “Exactly. Then, there is that camera device he used to take the picture was a little device get pulled from his pocket. It was something straight out of James Bond. But, the lawyer made it sound like it a common item, that was sold in the future.”

Dutch stated, “Following that logic, let us look at some of their jokes. They mention two names from the future. Two-hands and the Maid.”

Benny asked, “Who do you think they can be?”

Dutch raised an eyebrow, as he pointed out, “Who else do you think? Given Revy won't shut up about learning to shoot with two pistol at once, I think it is safe to say that Revy will become Two-hands. And that purple hair woman will likely become the maid.”

Benny scoffed at the idea, as he replied, “Come on Dutch, that lawyer made it sound like those two women were some of the most dangerous women on the planet.”

Dutch stated, “That cartel sent an army after that one woman. And while I don't know much spanish, I do know that the cartel leader called her, Bloodhound. And I have a feeling we might see her again, someday. That is one reason why I offered to take her with us. I would rather have her as a friend, than an enemy.”

“And when it comes to Revy, the mexican stated she had a lot of potential in being a gunfighter. He did not state that she looked to have potential. But, that she had potential. And we had just met him. How would he know that about her? Yet, he sounded like he knew for a fact that Revy could be a lot better than she already is.”

Benny said, in a worried tone of voice, “I can see your point. And given Revy's personality, that next meeting with the purple haired woman will likely be violent. With them getting into a fight. And if they are even half as badass as the lawyer hinted at...”

Dutch finished for Benny, “Yea... Ground zero, man... That is another reason I asked that woman to come with us. Because I would prefer Revy and her to be friends.” He mentally added, 'And with them both working for me, would just be icing on the cake. Though, there are other points that I need to mention to you, Benny-boy.'

Dutch commented, “And it gets stranger. After the gunfight started, the mexican treated us a teacher would treat his students. He even stated, that class was in session for us.”

“I think he wanted to show us, especially Revy and the Bloodhound, how badass a lone individual can be. Even Ms Bloodhound seemed hesitant to rush out and attack those men on her own. Yet, the mexican showed us how it is done. And that a person could come out of a fight like that unscathed.”

Benny said, “And the lawyer said that in the city they are from, that the women were way more dangerous than the mexican was.”

Dutch responded, “I know. And it gets better. How did the mexican know that everyone in the bar was armed? I have a feeling we. That in our future, we are going to be seeing a number of the people we saw in that bar.”

Benny commented, “Well, if nothing else, it will be interesting. Still, it is kinda eerie to meet someone from the future that knows more about what is going to happen to me, than I do.”

Dutch smiled, as he replied, “Look on the bright side. The way they acted, when we do meet them, in the future, we are all clearly still alive, and well.”

Benny returned Dutch's smile, as he agreed, “True.”

Dutch mentioned, “And we will find out if we are right, or not, some time in the future, if Revy becomes this Two-hands, and does meet someone like the lawyer, that happens to be from Japan. Also, if this Bloodhound becomes known as, the Maid. If so, I look forward to finding out how all this plays out, and who this Mister Japanese is. Still, it might be best to keep this between us. I don't want to complicate things with, Revy, nor anyone else.”

Dutch thought, 'Revy is too temperamental to lay information this heavy on her.'

Benny replied, “I completely agree with you.”

Dutch thought, 'That is what I like about you, Benny-boy. You accept how a given situation should be handled.'

Benny asked, “So, where we are heading? The mexican mentioned a place he considered to be a gangsters paradise. But, he only whispered the information in your ear. Though, I wonder if this is the city that the lawyer was talking about?”

Dutch answered, “I honestly don't know about the second question. But, I can answer the first question. We are heading to the so-called gangsters paradise. The place is on the east coast of Thailand. We are going through the Panama Canal. I have a few contacts there, so it should not be to difficult to cross.”

Benny thought, 'Dutch, you are a man of many mysteries, and talents. But, I am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Besides, you have been nice to me. So, I am not going to ask you any questions you might not want to answer.'

Dutch went onto say, “When we reach the other side of the canal, we will refuel, and resupply. And we will take on some more spare fuel containers, with fuel in them? Along with more supplies. It is going to be a long trip across the Pacific Ocean, to the other side of Indochina.”

Dutch thought, 'And I need to make sure that Revy gets any personal supplies, she needs, before we make our trek across the Pacific. Otherwise, this trip could become a nightmare for all of us.'

Benny inquired, “So, what is the town we are heading to called?”

Dutch stated, “We are going to a fishing village called, Roanapur. The mexican gave me directions. Earlier this morning, I already plotted out our course. Depending on the weather, and any other problems. It should take us a few weeks, to a month, to reach that village.”

“And if the mexican is from our future, he would have no reason not to give the right advice on how to get to Roanapur.”

Benny thought, 'I wonder... The question needs to be asked.' He asked, “While we may end up fine. It sounds like those two men were steering us towards danger. Are you sure it is a good idea to go there?”

Dutch responded, “I say that if the winds of fate want us there, we go there.” Dutch then smirked, as he looked in front of them, out of the windows, and into the sea, towards the west. He added, with a bit of enthusiasm in his tone of voice, “And when we get there, let us see what kind of trouble we can get into.”

(_)

At that moment, it was late at night, in Tokyo, Japan. Inside a small apartment, on the third story of a building, japanese man, with short black hair, whom was wearing casual clothing, was talking on the phone.

The phone was a wireless phone, with the man holding the receiver, with his right hand, by his right ear.

The man inquired, into the phone, in japanese, “So, I got the job?...”

“Great. Glad to hear it. And thanks. I will be there tomorrow morning, on time, and dressed in a suit and tie...”

“Good night to you to.”

The japanese man then hung up his phone.

The man walked to a chair, that faced a small TV, on a small TV stand.

He sat down in the chair, as he thought, 'I hope this job, at Asahi Industries, works out. And at least I now have my foot in the door. I will only get about six hours of sleep tonight, but it will be worth waiting for that call, if this job pans out. And I will just set my alarm clock to wait me at the proper time.'

'But, before I get some sleep. I would like to see what is on the news.'

With his right hand, the man then picked up the remote, on the right armchair of the chair. He turned on TV, and set the channel to a news station. The program on the station was in the middle of news story, about a large gunfight at a bar in Caracas, Venezuela, from the day before.

Rokuro Okajima smiled, as he happily thought, 'I am glad I am not mixed up with that bunch of violent lunatics.'

To be continued.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
36 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 64370 words long.