Indie Author Answers #64: More Missed Opportunities

On the show today, I talk shit about adult coloring books, and then we read and critique a chapter of my unpublished novel:

16: Miguel


When Brian had proved unreachable by phone, Miguel drove over to his apartment and hopped the fence after the keypad wouldn’t accept what he thought was the gate code. He didn’t see Brian’s or Alex’s cars in the lot, but proceeded to their apartment. Knocked on the door, no answer.

After speaking to Maria, Miguel tried to visit Brian but met stiff resistance. They told him Brian was resting, family visits only, and he had a hard time explaining to them that a giant Hispanic man with facial tattoos was family to a white guy. Maria might have been able to pull some strings, but she was indisposed in another wing of the hospital.

He called Theo in the morning to explain the situation. Theo came over talk about it. When Miguel finally did reach Brian on the phone, his concerns about Wiles spurred Miguel to action. Miguel decided to call Wiles and get some answers.

Wiles answered the first ring. “Garcia, my old friend. What can I do for you today?”

“I was just wondering if you talked to Brian lately,” Miguel said. Theo gave him a strange look, but Miguel waved him off. “I can’t get him on his cell.”

“Nope, I haven’t seen him in a couple days. Think he might be out of town.”

“What about your little blond pet tweaker? Has he seen him?”

Theo sneered at the reference to Alex.

“I doubt it,” Wiles said.

“That night, at Commerce City,” Miguel said, “you sent Brian there to scare him.”

A few beats ticked by and then Wiles responded. “Yeah, so?”

“What was the point of that?”

“It’s just business. It’s like a… an initiation, I guess. I sometimes have to put the nonbelievers through it,” Wiles said.

“That’s not what you told me,” Miguel said. “You told me he was there delivering some stuff in my place.”

“Yeah, well, I lied. I was just fucking with you. That night woulda worked out, though, if you hadn’t showed up with your Rambo-bullshit shotgun blasting. Thanks for fucking up my shit by taking out Ray, by the way,” Wiles said, his voice rich with sarcasm. “I don’t think I ever seriously expressed my gratitude for all that. I have to admit, I was pretty upset with you at first. I thought about putting some holes in you. Maybe I should have. But about Ray and them, it all came out okay; turned out they weren’t irreplaceable. I fumbled for a while, but your boy Connelly has proved once again he can handle the load.” Miguel didn’t respond. “Look, Garcia, it’s been great catching up and all, but I’m a little busy right now. We’ll continue this again real soon.”

“Sure,” Miguel said.

“Oh, by the way,” Wiles said, “say hi to Maria for me.”

They ended the phone conversation, and Miguel looked to Theo. The last comment about Maria didn’t sit well.

“What is it?” Theo said.

“Something’s about to happen, but I’m not entirely sure what. I think I’m going to have to stop it. Can you wait here for a little bit?”

Miguel left Theo and walked to Maria’s door. She told him to come in, and Miguel found her sitting in front of her vanity, brushing her hair.

“Do you have to work today?” he said.

“No, I have the next two days off. Why do you want to know?”

“I think you should go to Limon and visit Benita. I’ll call her and tell her you’re coming.”

“Benita? I haven’t seen her since… I don’t know, four or five years ago? Maybe not since the reunion. I don’t even know where she lives now.”

“She’s still in the same house,” Miguel said. “Please, Maria, do you trust me?”

“Of course I trust you.”

“Then I need you to do this for me.”

“My car’s in the shop until next week,” she said. “How am I supposed to get there?”

Miguel took the truck keys from his pocket and slid them across the vanity. “Take my truck, and go visit Benita. I’ll call her and let her know that you’re coming. Just for a day or two, or maybe a little bit longer. I have to do some things, and it’s not safe for you to be here.”

“You’re scaring me,” Maria said.

Miguel came close to Maria. He dropped to one knee and put his hand on her shoulder. “You don’t need to be scared. I’m going to take care of everything. Just please do what I say.”

“Are you in trouble?” she said. “If you’re in trouble, I should stay here and help you. I want to help you.”

Miguel wished that he didn’t have to talk her into going. Every word that came out of his mouth was a lie, but he reminded himself of the greater good. “I’m not in any trouble. I didn’t mean it when I said it’s not safe for you. I just… I just need to do some things, and it’s better if you’re not here. Please, Maria, I can’t explain it any more. Please just trust me.”

Her eyes darted over his face, searching for meaning or any kind of clue. Miguel remained silent, hoping his fear would not betray him. He wanted to send her on her way with some hope, if possible.

“Okay,” she said. “I just need to pack a bag.”

Miguel waited for her to finish packing, and then he ushered her out the door. She hugged him, her tiny body becoming enveloped in his massive frame. He kept his blank face steady during what Maria must have considered a routine goodbye. Miguel hoped that it was.

As she drove away in his truck, the burden lifted from his shoulders. One liability he could mark off his list. He tried not to think about whether or not he’d ever see her again. Whatever happened to him, she would now be in a safe place.

Miguel returned to the living room and texted Brian his warning. Theo still sat in his chair, a puzzled look on his face. “Where she go? What was all that about?”

“Theo, I have to tell you some things that I never told anybody,” Miguel said. Theo had arrived at Miguel’s house already half-drunk, but it would have to do. “I need to tell you the whole story. In case something happens to me, somebody should know the truth.”