His Honor, the Mayor of West Guttenberg, then provided her with a brief overview of the history of the Palisades, how the waves of Hispanics had started to reach the castellated cliffs several decades ago. Panglossians from Panama and other such optimists had arrived much like immigrants from bygone eras, with the expectations that the streets would be made of gold and opportunities on every corner…and like their predecessors, much to their surprise, they found it to be much more difficult than expected. Sure, towns like West Guttenberg had welcomed their new Dominican denizens and political refugees from Cuba, but it had hardly been due to altruistic reasons: the federal and state governments had paid them handsomely in funding to adopt these political orphans. Where the money actually went…well, that’s better left unsaid and instead told through a few winks and elbow jabs. So, fending for themselves, these nascent citizens learned to network and support one another, and they found employment wherever they could: the kitchens of restaurants, the shadows of construction sites, the drivers of business trucks and small jitneys. In some cases, though, it wasn’t enough to fulfill their promises to dire relatives; they had undergone the long journey to make a small fortune that was needed thousands of miles away…and desperate to make those ends meet. Sensing some of this palpable desperation, certain people (like the previous mayor who was Ciro’s predecessor and mentor) had formed a small cabal that could extend a service to any who were interested and who had two healthy kidneys of a certain blood type…
“Wait a minute,” interrupted Catelyn, somewhat horrified and leaning back a bit onto her pillow. “They were taking kidneys and selling them? Isn’t that illegal?”
Ciro had nodded, rolling onto his side in order to face her. “Yeah…but it was completely consensual. And everyone else in the whole world does it, Cat. I mean, it’s done where they come from, and they get far less for it in Ecuador. Even after a cut is taken for expenses and trouble, the remainder that they’d get would be way more here than there. And afterwards, they’d send money to their family, and then they’d spend some here in order to set themselves up. You know, like pay for good ESL lessons and maybe even for college…they’d get a ticket to a betta life.”
“But it was still illegal, right?” Catelyn pressing, inquiring but already sure of the answer.
“Yeah,” Ciro shrugged, “But so are lots of things. But when you do it right, and when you’re careful, who really gets hurt in the end?”
“And, so…are you careful?” Catelyn asked, already putting the pieces together and knowing that this business had been passed down to him from his mentor.
“Of course, my cleva girl,” he cajoled, rubbing her shoulder with one of his large hands. “There’s no getting anything past you…You sure that you’re not one of the Feds?” The fear introduced by such an accusation could be seen plainly in her visage, and it made him chuckle robustly. “Ha! You should see the look on your face…But, yeah, I’m always careful. And fair. So…are you into it? You wanna learn the ropes?”
And since it all made perfect sense in the way that he had put it, she climbed aboard this ship of adventurous enterprise and embarked on her new career as a privateer, where the treasure chest resembled more of an Igloo cooler. He taught her all of its administrative aspects: where the men in red suits took their clients for operations; who the medical staff included, among which were also immigrants who happened to be doctors (or so they claimed); the buyers who liked to meet on deserted work roads along the Hackensack River; and the shorthand that was their elementary form of encryption. The last was of paramount importance to her new role, since it fell upon her shoulders to be the facilitator of communication between the various parties. And since she was the social media czar of West Guttenberg, she published her encoded messages within the various posts and tweets of the Mayor’s office. (That had been her novel idea, of which she was incredibly proud.) Ciro even took note of how everyone was up-to-date faster than before, how it was clearly a result of her hard work. She glowed with the appreciation, given that it came from both her amour and her mentor. I was right all long. This was my destiny. I had to sacrifice many things to get here, but I am exactly where I need to be, she thought. I did it…I finally made it on my own.
And for the next few months, all became bliss. Much like when a singer becomes the song, she felt a certain harmony in this path that she had chosen for herself. During the day, she had the thrilling joy of working a normal job while moonlighting as a covert agent, being paid rather handsomely and amassing more money in that short time than the last several years combined. And during the off hours, when it was just her and Ciro, everything became even more magical. They would spend entire weekends on his boat, and they even participated in local races so that she could get a better feel for how to properly run the rigging. (She begged for them to enter the one around Block Island, but he said that she wasn’t ready yet.) They even spent an entire week in Puerto Rico together, chartering a boat during the day and consuming copious amounts of spit-roasted pork that was fabricated with a worn machete. A few times, she was sure that she had even caught Ciro looking at web sites that sold wedding rings, and she told herself to be patient, that the time would come eventually and soon. All was entirely well…at least, for a while.
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion. For those who wish to read previous chapters of The Condo Chronicles, the Table of Contents is available.