Storytime – Trouble in South America

parque-calderon-cuencaAnother writing exercise:

You come suddenly awake, with the feeling that you’ve been asleep for a long time.  You quickly realize that you’re in a hospital room, or something like it, perhaps in a room of a long-term care facility.  You have vague feelings of dread, and have a need to escape.  You find your clothes, quickly dress and run out into the streets of a large unfamiliar city, In your pockets you find a small photograph of some type of gathering, possibly a family reunion, and a cigarette lighter with the inscription “To my good friend, hoping you enjoy your new life in _________ (country)”.  There is also a small notebook, but the only entry reads “Why are they chasing me? I need to get to ________ (different country)”. What’s going on?  What’s the story?
I quickly left the hospital facility, never pausing as I ran headlong down strange streets.  At last I came to a city square, with a large mission or cathedral on one side.  The square was full of people, all attired in some kind of local costume, colorful but unknown to me.  The theme of my surroundings seemed to be Spanish or at least Hispanic, and I knew some of that language, so I went over to a street vendor and asked, “What is the name of this city, mi amigo?”  He looked at me strangely, but replied, “You are in Cuenca, one of the largest cities in Ecuador.  Are you that lost?  Do you need some kind of help?”  I quickly thanked him, but then went on my way.
I found a table at a sidewalk cafe and ordered a beer.  As I began to relax I tried to remember how I came to be there, and also wondered how I had come to this city.  I took out all the items items in my pocket, and found a cigarette lighter. The inscription read, “To my good friend, hoping you enjoy your new life in South America.”  There was also a small notebook, and inside it I found a photograph, possibly of a family gathering.  The notebook was almost blank, but there was a single entry: “Why are they chasing me?  I need to get to Colombia!”
I finished my beer and was about to leave when I noticed a man at another table who seemed to be watching me.  I had enough money in my pocket to pay for my refreshment, so I tossed that on the table then walked on down the street, trying not to appear nervous.  In the reflection of a storefront I could see that the man was indeed following me, but didn’t seem to be closing the gap between us.
I turned several corners and found myself walking down a somewhat deserted street.  I quickly darted down a side alley and pressed myself against the wall.  As my pursuer came around the corner I grabbed him and threw him up against the wall, my forearm pressed tightly against his neck.  “Who are you?” I barked, maintaining the pressure.
He was gasping, trying to talk, trying to breathe, so I spun him around, placing him in a hammerlock, pulling his arm up to the middle of his back, and slamming him against the wall again.  “Well, what’s going on?”
He was wheezing, “Please don’t hurt me, I only want to help you, señor! I know someone else who is being held in that hellish place you ran from, and I followed you  so we could talk about it.  That’s all, I swear!”  The back of the man’s shirt was wet with perspiration now, but the temperature really wasn’t that high, so it must have been just nerves.
I released my hold and let him turn around so we could talk.  I warned him, “Just don’t make any sudden moves, or you’ll regret it!”  He nodded assent as he massaged his sore arm where I had been holding it so tightly.
“For openers,” I said, “do you know my name?  I’ve suffered a head injury or something, and don’t know who I am.”
The man introduced himself as Juan Valdez, then said, “As far as I know, you are John Becker, and your memory is probably impaired because of the drugs they’ve been giving you.  The same thing has happened to my brother Enrico, who is still captive there.”
“Well, what’s going on?  Why are they holding anyone captive?  What is their motive for this criminal activity?”
He asked if we could return to the cafe to continue our talk, and I agreed.  After we were seated and both had beers in front of us, he continued his story, “Apparently there is a link between these people and one of the big cartels in Cartagena, Colombia.  I think they have been forcing Enrico to act as a ‘mule’, someone who smuggles drugs across the border past the security guards. Once they get the drugs into Ecuador, they are more easily transported out to the big world markets, like the United States. Perhaps the same thing has happened to you, since you have been drugged and detained, as has happened to him.”
I was starting to have some vague memories trying to rise to the surface of my mind.  Maybe the drugs were wearing off.  There was something about a girl, don’t know her name or who she is.  Darn!  This is so frustrating.  I pulled out the photograph and showed it to Juan.  “Do you know these people?”
I thought he was going to jump clear up on the table, he was so excited.  “Yes, yes!  This is a photograph of some of the people being used as mules, and there is Enrico, there on the left.  I don’t know the young woman in the photo, is that someone you know, John?”  I gazed at the photograph, trying to remember.
Suddenly, I had it!  “Yes, I know who that is now!  She is Margaret, my fiancee, and they are holding her hostage in Colombia, awaiting my return with the drug shipment I’m supposed to be delivering.  Perhaps something went wrong, that’s why I was drugged and held here.”
Juan stood, and motioned for me to follow him.  I looked around, didn’t see anyone suspicious, so I decided to go with him.  We walked in much the same direction as before, and turned down a similar alley.
As we turned that corner, Juan spun around, holding a gun on me.  I stopped, stunned.  It didn’t occur to me to search him before, and now I began to regret that oversight.
Juan smiled, then said, “Now, señor, we’ll talk about that ‘shipment’.  Where did you hide the bundle before you were taken to the hospital?”
I knew I’d never get the chance to find Margaret.

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