The taxi, one headlight out and one fender crimped, cut through downtown Tampa and headed into Ybor City. Turner sat in the back seat with his eyes half closed. He was a tall, thin ramrod of a man who was never tense and yet never entirely relaxed. His hair was the color of damp sand, his eyes steel gray. His lips were thin and he rarely smiled. He was not smiling now.
The stub of a cigarette burned between the second and third fingers of his right hand. The fingers were yellow-brown from the thousands and thousands of cigarettes which had curled their tar-laden smoke around them. He looked at the cigarette, raised it to his lips for a final drag. The smoke was strong. He rolled down the window and flipped the butt into the street.
Night. The street lights were on in Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin quarter. Taverns winked seductively in red and green neon. Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Negroes walked the streets, congregated around pool halls and small bars. Here and there butt-twitching hustlers were rushing the season, looking to catch an early trick before the competition got stiff. Turner watched all this through the taxi window, his thin lips not smiling, not frowning. He had bigger things on his mind than corner loungers or early-bird whores.
He was thirty-four years old, and he was wanted for murder.
Thirty-four years old, a man who had done everything and nothing, a man who had been almost everywhere but a man who had never put down roots anywhere. His jobs were a man’s jobs—long-haul trucking, where you pushed a heavy load all night long and poured the coffee down your throat to keep your eyes open. Construction work, heavy girders and beams, a pneumatic hammer that churned up the concrete and set your whole body shaking. Merchant seaman hitches, signing on in one port as a deckhand, crawling to another port, maybe making the return trip if you weren’t too drunk to find your ship again.
He was thirty-four years old, with no home, no ties. He had been born in Savannah but his father went chasing a better job and they moved north to Philly. Then his father went chasing a better woman and he and his mother were left alone. They kept moving, never staying anywhere too long, never getting attached to a person or a place. It was a pattern he knew well by now. When his mother found a man to marry it wasn’t hard for him to move along on his own, find another town, hunt up a job.
Trucking, shipping, wrecking, construction. Drinking hard, loving hard, earning decent dough and spending it as fast as it came in. Savings banks were for married men.
The murder had happened in Charleston. It had happened two months ago, over a girl, and he had been drunk at the time. He closed his eyes and let the scene flash through his memory...
Home again, home from two weeks on a freighter coming up from Galveston, home and off the boat and stopping in a bar for a few quick ones, raw liquor going down fast and hard on an empty stomach. Then the phone, and dialing the girl’s number, and no answer. So a few more, a handful of shots chased down the hatch by a handful of beers. And then back home, back to the north side railroad flat to wait for the girl. His key in the lock, turning, the door opening silently.
And then the scene. The girl, his girl, the one who was supposed to be waiting for him, lying flat on her back with her thighs apart and her hips pumping like primed pistons. And the man, fat and swart, between those thighs.
Then madness. He had killed them both, had left them lying nude and dead and bloody. He used the knife he always carried, the small and beautiful knife with the Solingen steel blade. It wasn’t a switchblade but if you knew what you were doing you could flip it open quickly, with one hand. He kept it sharp, kept it well oiled. And he had flipped it neatly, expertly.
Then he had cut their throats...
He dug the pack of cigarettes from the pocket of his flannel shirt, popped one between his lips and scratched a match to light it. He sucked smoke in, shook the match out. A thin jet of smoke trailed out from between his thin lips.
The cabbie was a Cuban. He said no, it wasn’t much further. Turner nodded to himself and sat back in his seat...
Double murder. He hadn’t even attempted to disguise it, had closed the bloody knife, dropped it in his pocket, and had gone off to get drunk. He got very drunk. He spent two days drinking, and he woke up on the edge of a marsh south of Charleston. His shoes were gone and his wallet was gone and his watch was gone. The little knife, strangely enough, was still in his pocket.
He ran south. He went through Georgia and Florida, and he wondered how far they were from catching him. They had an old photo of him that they printed in the newspapers, had his fingerprints on file, and it was only a matter of time before they caught him. Sooner or later they would get him. Then they would take him back, put him in jail, try him, convict him, hang him. Justice came quickly in South Carolina.
So he had to get out of the country. If he stayed in the States he was a goner—at thirty-four. That was too young to die. He had to get out of the country, had to get down to South America. You could do that, if you had the money. You could buy new citizenship, set yourself up in business, carve out a neat little niche for yourself. But it took money.
He grinned. It was a brief grin, an almost imperceptible upward curving of the thin lips. It was gone almost instantly.
They were going to give him the money. They were going to give him twenty thousand beautiful dollars—twenty thousand goddamn beautiful dollars. Enough to get him out of the States, enough to put him in Brazil, to buy him Brazilian citizenship, to set him up neatly and permanently. Twenty thousand beautiful goddamn dollars and they were going to hand it to him.
The cab pulled to a halt and the Cuban driver turned to look at Turner. The Cuban smiled easily. "We are here, mister."
Turner nodded. The meter read a dollar and a half. He gave the cabbie two dollars and told him to keep the change. The driver smiled again, showing bad yellow teeth. He asked Turner if he wanted to find a girl, a pretty girl. Turner stepped up onto the sidewalk and told the cabbie to get lost. He waited until the cab pulled away, then walked into the restaurant.
It wasn’t much of a place. It had a sign in front supplied by Coca-Cola. It had cracked linoleum on the floor and an ancient Puerto Rican hag behind the counter. The windows looked as though they had never been washed. The clock said it was twenty minutes to nine. Turner was early. He took a stool at the far end of the counter and turned so he could watch the entrance out of the corner of his eye. He ordered black coffee and a plate of rolls. The waitress brought him a basket of sesame seed rolls and a cup of coffee. It was hot, bitter and strong. He ate two of the rolls and drank some of the coffee.
Twenty thousand dollars and they were giving it to him.
He lit another cigarette. It wasn’t that simple, he thought. First he had to commit a murder. One murder to make up for the other murders, one planned killing to get him out of the jam that a double unplanned killing had placed him in. Only there was a difference, because that double murder had involved people who didn’t matter. A cheap waterfront slut and a fat, dark dock-walloper. No one important.
This planned murder, this twenty-grand homicide, this was different. He wasn’t going to knock off just anyone.
He was going to murder Fidel Castro.
Hiraldo came into the restaurant at four minutes to nine. Turner saw him out of the corner of his eye but did not turn around. He picked up another roll and took a bite of it, then washed it down with more coffee. He was working on his second cup.
He waited while Hiraldo made his way to the back of the restaurant and took the stool beside him. Hiraldo was a short man, fat-bellied, mostly bald. He smiled easily, showing a great many gold fillings. He looked soft and foolish. Turner knew better.
"You have been waiting long?"
"Not long," Turner said.
"The others have arrived. They are in the apartment of a friend, a sympathizer. We will join them."
"You’re calling the shots."
"Finish your coffee," Hiraldo said. "There is no hurry."
Turner ate another roll and finished his coffee. He put money on the counter. He got up and let the fat little Cuban lead him out of the restaurant. Hiraldo’s car, a three-year-old Chevrolet, was parked around the corner. They went to it. Hiraldo drove. He took several turns, and Turner decided that he did this to keep him from knowing where they were. It didn’t work. Turner knew exactly where they were. He sat with his hand in his pocket, his fingers closed around the little knife with the Solingen steel blade.
Hiraldo said: "This is very important, Seņor Turner. This lunatic Castro is a bad smell in the noses of all Cubans. You will be performing a service."
Turner said nothing.
"You will be ridding Cuba of a menace, a despotic maniac. You will be striking a blow at the Communist world conspiracy. You will be—"
"Forget it," Turner said.
The Cuban looked at him, smiled and showed his gold teeth. "I do not understand," he said.
"The patriotic bit. Forget it."
"You are not a patriot?"
"I’m not a patriot. I’m not a hero. I tried that once—they called it Korea and it was mud and Chinamen screaming and people dying. Men dying. Ever see a man die, Hiraldo?"
"Yeah. To hell with it. I don’t want to be a hero. You got a flag to wave, you can wave it at somebody else. It was Machado, then it was Batista, now it’s Castro. Every time anybody turns around you guys got another fat cat sitting on the top of the heap. They all stink."
"Our country has problems."
"Yeah. Problems. I got problems of my own. You understand my problems, Hiraldo?"
"Money," Turner said. "Twenty thousand dollars. For twenty grand I’m your boy, you’re my boss, that’s all. I don’t care if I’m killing Castro or Batista. You understand?"
Hiraldo moistened his lips. "I understand."
"Good," Turner said.
They lapsed into silence. The Cuban parked the car in front of a small red-brick building which had seen better days. The brick was in need of repair and many of the windows were broken. Turner saw light around the edges of dark burlap curtains in a fourth-floor window. No other lights were on. They got out of the car and walked up an unlighted stairway to the fourth floor. Hiraldo knocked twice, paused, knocked three times, paused, knocked twice.
Oh, Christ, Turner thought. They’ve got signals. Straight out of a spy movie. The stupid bastards have got signals!
The door opened inward. They went inside, first Hiraldo, then Turner. There were six of them waiting. A thin Cuban with a pencil-line mustache leaned indolently against a far wall picking his teeth with a matchstick. His eyes were lazy. Another Cuban sat in an easy chair with his legs crossed at the knees. He was an older man, older than Hiraldo—in his fifties or maybe in his sixties. It was hard for Turner to tell.
There were four Americans. Turner glanced quickly at each of them, sized them up, then ignored them. A young kid, he couldn’t be more than twenty-three, probably closer to eighteen. Young, green, hardly old enough to shave. Skinny, too. Dark hair, a full mouth, a white sport shirt open at the neck. He sat in a bridge chair and didn’t look around.
Another, closer to Turner’s age, with a broad forehead and stevedore arms. Brawn, Turner thought. Muscle. Not much for thinking but hell in a back alley scramble. And that was fine, because it never hurt you to have a little muscle on your team.
A third, and this one looked like a goddamn accountant. Wire-rimmed glasses, a face as determinedly Anglo-Saxon as Yorkshire pudding. Wearing a pinstripe suit, yet, with a regimental-striped tie. What was he doing there?
The fourth. Turner studied him, then went over and sat next to him on the old sofa. This one, Turner thought, was the only one who counted. Maybe thirty-five, maybe forty-five, somewhere in the middle and it didn’t much matter. This one, this last one, was the one who would be running things. The others were jumping out of their skins but this one, with a strong chin and sharp eyes and wiry muscles, he was calm. Well, fine, Turner thought. This boy can take charge. I thought I was going to have to run things myself. But let him have the headaches.
Hiraldo took out a pack of Cuban cigarettes and began offering them around. The thin man with the glasses took one, accepted a light. The others passed them up. Hiraldo lit a cigarette of his own, shuffled around for a moment, then started to speak.
Introductions came first. Turner listened, learned everybody’s name. The young kid was Jim Hines, the muscle man was Matt Garth, the thin one with glasses was Earl Fenton, the take-charge type was Ray Garrison. Turner was introduced as Michael Turner. Mike for short, he thought. Except for a girl in Charleston, who used to call him Mickey. But that was before he cut her throat...
Fenton drew on the Cuban cigarette, inhaled the strong smoke. He almost coughed but he managed to control it, to blow out the smoke slowly and take a breath of air to clear his lungs. As much as they could be cleared, anyway, he thought. Smoking was a hell of a habit. Bad for you. Maybe if he had never started smoking—
He looked at Hiraldo. It was strange the way the man could not speak without moving his hands, without pacing the floor. Fenton dragged on the cigarette again and this time he did not choke on the tobacco smoke. He listened to the Cuban.
"Five men with a mission," Hiraldo was saying. "Five men, five small men, but together you can tumble a colossus. This lunatic, this Fidel, he has set himself up as lord and master of the Cuban nation. He has betrayed a most vital revolution, has climbed upon Seņor Batista’s throne and has stepped into Seņor Batista’s bloody shoes. He has—"
Fenton stopped listening. A long-winded little man, he decided. One would think men of action had little time for speech-making. But evidently this Mr. Hiraldo was long on words and short on action.
Action! That was the point of it all, was it not? It had to be, Fenton thought. There came a time when it was no longer enough to vote, no longer enough to work from nine to five in the Metropolitan Bank of Lynbrook, no longer enough to come home, to eat a solitary meal, to watch a program on a television set, to go down to the corner tavern for a glass of beer and an hour or two of easy conversation. There came a time when time itself was ebbing, when the world was running away from you. When you had to act, and act fast, because there was little time.
So little time.
"I believe you are all acquainted with the terms," Hiraldo said.
"Twenty grand," Turner said shortly. Fenton looked at him, saw strength coupled with desperation. What was it that Thoreau had written? Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, something like that. A wealth of meaning in a few simple words.
"Twenty thousand dollars," Hiraldo said. "For each of you. A total, in short, of one hundred thousand dollars, money put up by those men who love Cuba and wish to see her liberated. One hundred thousand dollars, a fit price for the head of Fidel Castro."
"How do we get it?" It was that Matt Garth talking, the heavyset, muscular one. Fenton looked at him.
Hiraldo said: "It will be held for you."
"And suppose you welsh?"
Hiraldo didn’t understand. Turner explained that Garth wanted a guarantee of payment.
"Like half in advance, half later," Garth said.
Hiraldo would not go along with that. He explained another system, something involving the deposit of the funds in a bank account in some manner which would be a guarantee of good faith all around. Fenton did not bother listening to the explanation. The money hardly mattered. The money was unimportant, irrelevant, immaterial. Money was good only for what it would buy. The money would buy very little for Fenton. What he wanted had no price tag, was carried on the shelves of no department store.
No, the money was unimportant. Of course one could not help but wonder where it was coming from. A band of impoverished Cuban refugees would hardly be able to scrape together a round sum of one hundred thousand dollars. Who was financing the assassination? Tobacco and sugar planters? Oil refiners? Batista fascists hungry to regain power? Americans unwilling to tolerate a Communist nation ninety miles offshore?
Interesting questions, Fenton thought. Fascinating questions. But, like the money itself, irrelevant and immaterial as far as he himself was concerned. Just as irrelevant and immaterial as the money.
What mattered was the action, the purpose. No matter who his opponents and what their motives, this man called Fidel Castro was an evil force in the over-all scheme of things, a dictator who had to be destroyed. And he, Earl Fenton, would be a contributor to his destruction. That mattered, that was important. That and little else.
Fenton lit another cigarette from the first. This new cigarette had a filter tip, and Fenton looked at it for a moment before putting it back in his mouth. Bad form, chain-smoking. Bad for your health. Even if they were filtered, cigarettes could hurt you. He sucked smoke into his lungs, winced, hoped no one had noticed the wince. So little time...
So little time to act, to exist. To kill, of course. He had time for that. Time to kill—that was what it was, what it all boiled down to, and the unintentional word play summed it all up. Time to kill.
Time to kill Castro. Because the man was rotten, the man deserved to die. All Fenton knew was what he read in the papers. Castro executed, and Castro dictated, and Castro was a despot, and Castro was probably power mad, and Castro had to die. That was all.
"You will divide now," Hiraldo was saying. "Two and two and one. You—Turner—will go with Hines. Fenton, you will go with Garth. You, Garrison, will—"
"Hold on, Hiraldo."
Garrison took a breath, let it out in a long sigh. Fenton watched him, saw the assurance of the man, the lazy strength. "If you want somebody to follow your stage directions," he said, "find another boy."
"How do you mean?"
"You know damn well what I mean," Garrison said. "If I play this game, I play it my way. I don’t follow somebody else’s plan. We—the five of us—do the shooting, the killing, the dirty work. We’ll write our own script."
"And you think I wish to plan this assassination? This removal of a tyrant?"
"I don’t know what you wish," Garrison told him. "I don’t care what you want. All I know is what I want, and that is to go to Cuba, get Castro, then come back here and pick up twenty grand. That’s all. And I want to do it my way."
Hiraldo seemed partially amused, partly irritated. Fenton watched the play of emotions over his face. "Let me explain my position," the short Cuban said.
"I’m listening," Garrison told him.
Hiraldo said: "Believe me, I have no intention of...uh...drawing the plans for the assassination. I am not an assassin."
Hiraldo ignored the interruption. "As you may know," he said, "it will be somewhat difficult for you five to enter Cuba. You cannot go in a body. You cannot take a boat or fly in a commercial plane. You cannot—"
"We can’t walk on water," Garrison snapped. "Get to the point."
Hiraldo’s tone was icy. "I am planning a landing," he said. "A landing of five men. Two, and two, and one."
"Turner and Hines will go to a house in Miami. They will be expected. They will be escorted to a boat, a fast private ship which will put them ashore on the northern coast of Cuba. They will be met by sympathizers and introduced into the city of Havana."
Garrison said nothing.
"Fenton and Garth will go to another house," Hiraldo continued. "A house here in Tampa, in Ybor City. They will soon be taken to a private airstrip off the Tamiami Trail. A plane will be waiting there. It will take them to Oriente Province, to the hills where rebels, at this very moment, are fighting the butcher who—"
"Skip the speeches, Hiraldo."
The Cuban sighed. "They will meet these freedom fighters who will help them in any way they can. And you, Mr. Garrison—"
"—will get to Cuba under my own power," the man said. "And I’ll do as I damn please, and will play it whatever way I want. I don’t need your boats or your planes or your sympathizers or your freedom fighters. I don’t want a goddamned soul to know where I am or what I’m doing. You got that straight, Hiraldo?"
"I have it straight."
"Fine," Ray Garrison said. "I’m glad we understand each other. I’m going to Cuba. When your boy Castro is dead, I’ll be back. Have the money waiting for me."
He stood up, his big body uncoiling easily. For the first time he seemed to be aware of Fenton, of Turner, Hines and Garth. "You boys take it easy," he said. "Don’t let this spic hand you a hard time. I’ll see you all in Cuba."
And Fenton watched Ray Garrison walk out of the room.
After that it was simpler, quieter, easier. After that, Fenton could sit at ease, smoke one cigarette after the other and think his own thoughts while Hiraldo talked of trivia. He, Fenton, was supposed to go with Garth, to live in a house in Ybor City and take a plane to the Oriente hills. And from there, somehow, they were supposed to kill Castro. It seemed improbable, at best.
But he would see what happened. He lit a cigarette from a butt, ground the butt under his heel. Hiraldo talked too much, as Garrison had said. Hiraldo dealt in words, not deeds, and wordy men were what Fenton was trying to escape.
So little time...
He remembered the beginning. The beginning of awareness, at any rate, if not the beginning of it all. How could you pin down beginnings?
Maybe the beginning was long ago. Maybe it all started with birth, many years ago, in Lynbrook. A nice town, Lynbrook. Quiet, peaceful and typically New England. He had been born there and he had lived there, had gone to school, then moved on to the bank. His life was a mirror of the town—quiet, peaceful and typically New England. No wife, because there had never been a woman with whom he’d fallen in love. No mistress; a bank teller in a tiny town cannot afford an affair. Just the job, a few friends, a glass of beer and a book in the evenings, a cup of coffee and the morning paper at dawn. Was that the beginning?
No, he thought. That was the foundation, perhaps. The groundwork. That prepared him, made him a man ready to wait a few more years for retirement, a man who had saved money painstakingly for those years of leisure, the good years, the lazy, self-indulging years a man like himself looked forward to.
Then it began.
It had begun with a pain—a small pain in the chest that came often enough to send him to his doctor. Maybe a heart condition, maybe he would have to start taking it easier.
But it turned out to be something worse—something frightening, inevitable and inexorable. It was a little six-letter word which translated itself into a smaller, colder five-letter word.
The six-letter word was cancer.
The five-letter word was death.
Carcinoma of the lung—lung cancer. How much time, Doctor? More than a month and less than a year. You can have an operation, you can have radium treatments, you can have X-rays. Yes, and we can apply leeches, we can let blood, we can give you hot baths and cold baths and dose you with vitamins and fill you full of antibiotics. And whatever we do, Earl Fenton, in more than a month and less than a year we will bury you. You will be dead and we will place you into a hole and fill that hole with earth.
More than a month, less than a year.
So very little time...
The very thin Cuban with the pencil-line mustache drove Turner and Hines from Tampa to Miami. It was neither a short nor a long drive. The car was a last year’s Cadillac and the thin Cuban drove it as though driver and car were component parts of a single mechanism. The Cuban did not stop once, not for gas, not for coffee, not to pass water. He stopped at last in front of a concrete-block-and-stucco house in what seemed to be a suburb of Miami. Hines wasn’t sure where they were. He had never been to Miami before, had in fact never been south of Baltimore before. He got out of the car along with the Cuban and Turner.
The Cuban led them to the door. False dawn was streaking the sky. Hines looked at the watch on his wrist, saw that it was almost five in the morning. They had been up the whole night, then. When was the last time he’d been up that long? At school, of course. At Cornell, cramming for exams, working like a Turk for finals.
It seemed like a million years ago. Christ, he was a college kid, he was supposed to be at school studying for tests and going to proms and laying coeds in the back seats of cars and otherwise engaging in the hysterical procedure of getting an education. He was a kid, a punk, a wet-behind-the-ears kid all of nineteen years old, a scared little kid with nothing on the ball, and now he was supposed to go into a foreign country and kill a man named Fidel Castro.
Who the hell was he? A college kid. A kid whose father had sold insurance and whose mother lived on it now, an upstate-New-York-appleknocker kind of kid, a kid who’d never had a gun in his hand in his life. Kids in Utica didn’t play with guns. The town was a cultural backwater; teenage gangs weren’t the rage, and you could grow up slowly and leisurely, accepting middle-class values because that was simply the way things were, hoping to grow up and marry a girl right off the Saturday Evening Post’s prettiest cover, raise a few children and make a comfortable living.
So Utica was bad training ground for an assassin. And so was Cornell, for God’s sake. Jesus, Castro was some damned kind of a folding bed, not a man you were going to kill.
When you stopped to think about it, it was kind of nuts.
Nuts, ridiculous, crazy, wet-brained. It didn’t make any sense at all. There were four others, and one of them was a brainless hunk of muscle and another was a rugged outdoor type and another was a little old guy who reminded Hines of his father who had died several years ago of coronary thrombosis and who had peddled insurance in Utica. And the fourth one, this Turner character next to him, the strong silent type who was made out of wrought iron. A hell of an odd bunch, a crazy bunch, and the bunch was made much crazier by the addition of one, James Hines.
The Cuban had unlocked the door, had given them the key, had left them. Turner was in the kitchen making coffee. Hines sat down in the living room. He couldn’t sit still, had to get up and pace the floor. He went on pacing until Turner came back with two mugs of coffee.
"It’s instant," Turner said. "And I couldn’t find milk or sugar. Black all right with you?"
"Then take a cup and drink it. And sit down, for God’s sake. You make me nervous."
He took the coffee, sat down, sipped it and burned his mouth. Turner was drinking the coffee as if it were room temperature.
"How can you drink it so hot?"
"I was a trucker for a while," Turner said. "Long-distance hauling. When you stop on the road you want to get coffee down fast. You can’t wait for it to cool. It’s something you get used to."
Hines nodded. Well, you ask and you find out. He waited for his coffee to cool a little, then sipped it.
Turner lit a cigarette. He stood up, sat down.
Turner said: "Drink more coffee, wait an hour. Then get the hell out of here and catch the first plane north."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you’re a kid," Turner snapped. "A young idealistic kid in the wrong boat. You can get out while you’ve got a chance and go home to Mom and Dad."
"The hell you’re sorry," Hines said. "Forget it. You were saying something and you might as well finish it."
The tone surprised both of them. Then Turner said: "You don’t know what it’s all about. You think this Castro is a dictator, so we’ll be heroes and kill him. You’re the only hero in the crowd, kid. I’m not here to play hero. I want twenty grand. I need twenty grand. I killed a man and a woman and if I stay in this country they’ll hang me for it. They’ll take me to Charleston and hang me."
Hines thought, This man is a murderer. He’s telling me all this. I’m supposed to be shocked or something. But he wasn’t shocked. He thought only that now he knew Turner’s reason, now he knew why Turner was in on the deal. It was an answer and nothing more.
"And Garth," Turner said. "The one with muscles instead of brains. You think he’s a goddamn freedom fighter?"
"I think he’s a slob."
"Yeah," Turner said. "A slob. You tell him to hit and he hits. No brain, no ideals, nothing. A slob. How about Garrison?"
"He’s a bounty hunter."
Turner was nodding emphatically, smoke from his cigarette trailing out between his thin lips. "You got it," he said. "A bounty hunter. There’s a price on Castro and he wants to collect it. It’s a business with him. He’d kill anybody, anywhere, any time, for the right price. He’d kill you for twenty grand—or me. Or his mother."
"Skip him," Turner said. "I didn’t figure him yet. Let’s go on. How about Hiraldo?"
"He’s a hired hand," Hines said. "You noticed Hiraldo. You didn’t notice the old guy, did you?"
"I noticed him."
Hines said: "You know who he is?" Turner shook his head. "His name is Juan Carboa," Hines said. "He’s a businessman. He has a cute business. He finances revolutions."
"I didn’t know that."
"He’s been around for years," Hines said, ready to talk now, surer of himself. "There was a man in Cuba named Machado. Carboa collected money, armed a sergeant named Batista. Batista threw out Machado."
"You learn all this in school?"
"Just listen to me," Hines said. "I’m proving something. About idealists."
"Then Carboa raised more money," Hines said. "Later, years later, he financed somebody named Castro, a law student with a beard—Fidel Castro. And Castro threw out Batista. Now Juan Carboa is financing somebody who’s going to throw out Castro. Each time he does this, one hell of a lot of money winds up in Juan Carboa’s hands. He’s making a living out of revolutions."
Turner made no comment.
"I know a lot," Hines said. "About idealism."
"So what’s your angle?"
Hines shrugged. Maybe you could talk too much, he thought. Maybe there was a point at which you should shut up. Maybe when you opened your wounds you were just asking somebody to pour salt in them.
"Come on," Turner said. "Everybody’s got an angle. What’s yours?"
"I’m not an idealist," Hines said.
"No. I had a brother, Turner. An older brother, six years older than I am. He was an idealist, Turner."
"Just shut up and listen. He was an idealist, a great guy. I loved the bastard. You got that? He taught me things, spent a lot of time with me. It was the older brother-younger brother bit and I loved him for it. So Castro went up against Batista and Joe—my brother—went to the hills to help out. He didn’t come in on the tail end. He was there almost from the beginning, before half the people in this country ever heard of Castro. He was there. He fought and he starved and he was there when they won. You got that?"
Turner looked at him.
"So this brother of mine was there, and they won when everybody expected them to lose. They were just a band of kids with beards fighting a professional army and, damn it, they won. And Castro was on top."
Turner lit another cigarette. Hines stopped for a minute. This was the hard part, this was where it got tough to keep going. But he had to get it out, it was important now and he had to tell Turner. Somehow, it was important that Turner be told.
"This Castro," he said, "he got on an anti-American kick. And there was Joe, an American, an idealist. He was on Castro’s side, but he was still an American."
He paused for breath and then went on. "Castro called it revolutionary justice. He said Joe Hines betrayed the revolution and had to get his. With revolutionary justice you don’t need a trial. All you need is a firing squad. They took my brother, put him in front of a firing squad and shot him deader than hell. So I’m going to Cuba, Turner, and I’m going to kill this son-of-a-bitch, Castro, and if that’s idealism you can shove it straight up your ass."
Neither of them said anything for a while. Then Turner got up, took the coffee cups, carried them to the kitchen. Hines sat in his chair and looked at his hands. They were not trembling. I’m steady as a goddamn rock, he thought. No shakes or nothing. Just steady. Gibraltar.
Turner came back, handed him a cup of coffee. They drank in silence. When they set down empty cups Turner offered him a cigarette. He shook his head and Turner lit one for himself.
"What I said before," Turner apologized, "about you grabbing a plane and going home. Just forget I said it, okay?"
"How old are you, Hines?"
"No reason. You ever have a woman?"
Hines looked at his hands. He took a deep breath.
"Well? Did you?"
"Don’t be ashamed of it, for Christ’s sake. Look, it’s late, we’re both tired. There are bedrooms in the back. We’ll sack out for eight hours, then send out for some food and some liquor. You drink?"
"Good," Turner said. "We’ll get some food and we’ll get some liquor, and I’ll call somebody on the phone and get a couple of girls. We’ll eat the food and we’ll drink the liquor and we’ll lay the girls. Then we’ll go to Cuba and get our asses shot off. That sound okay to you?"
"Sure," Hines said.
"Fine," Turner said. "Now let’s get some sleep."
Copyright © 1961 by Lawrence Block.