by David Pereda
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While vacationing with her mother in Havana, a 10-year old American girl is taken by members of a child sex ring intent on selling her into forced prostitution. When the human traffickers avoid capture and escape the island, the father of the girl, surgeon Raymond Peters, decides to take matters into his own hands and initiates a worldwide investigation. The Cuban government assigns a lethal professional assassin named Marcela to help Raymond track down the culprits. The search for Stephanie takes the unlikely pair – a man who has sworn an oath to save lives and a woman who kills for a living — to the Middle East in the hunt for the mysterious mastermind, Mohamed. Working against the clock, Raymond and Marcela must pull out all stops to save Stephanie and flee Dubai before Mohamed and his gang of thugs kill them.
The woman looked like the queen of a redneck trailer park. She had a face like poured concrete painted pink, and limp Clairol-blonde hair. She wore a stamped polyester dress in shades of burnt orange, and pink flip flops. Her name was Tammy – short for Tamara, she said.
Definitely not my typical patient, Mon thought.
But then the woman wasn’t there as a patient. Tammy had come to him highly recommended by Anatoli Vorsov, a Russian businessman he’d been doing business with for over a year now.
Mon leaned back in his chair behind the wooden desk in the office he kept in the clinic precisely for these transactions and steepled his fingers. He allowed his mind to wonder, but not too much. He had to be alert.
It was amazing how his life had changed since his father brought him to Miami from Cuba years ago. How many years? Eight, or was it nine? So many things had happened during that time, including the fact that he and his father didn’t talk to each other anymore. One thing for sure, he had found a way to make money in the United States, big money, much more money than he ever hoped to make in Cuba.
He smiled inwardly and watched the “Queen”, who was giving him a broad smile.
“Good deal, no?”
She had a rough accent, as rough as her porous complexion, and the unsettling quirk of leaving out of her speech all the articles and most of the verbs. She sounded like a bad Hollywood imitation of an Indian in a cheap western, but not exactly. Mon couldn’t quite figure out where she was from. The fact mortified him, for some reason. He guessed she was from somewhere in Eastern Europe — Ukraine, Belarus or Moldova. Maybe she was Russian, like Anatoli. Mon had met many Russians in Cuba, but none quite like this woman. Mon wasn’t very good with accents, anyway. He hadn’t lived in the United States long enough to develop a discriminating ear for accents. Hell, he was still struggling to master English. He hated the language. It was constantly changing. It had few grammatical rules and most had countless exceptions. Then there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of idioms that didn’t make sense.
As his instructor at the Miami Dade Community College always said, “English is a language you have to memorize.”
“Well?” the woman asked.
Tammy cocked her head without moving one curly hair. “You want business or not?”
Mon’s curiosity was piqued by the woman’s proposition. He just didn’t know whether he could trust her. She had promised to provide him with five hundred new Medicare patients. Mon already had more than enough patients now. He was doing so well financially, he had to open offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland to shelter much of that money from the US Treasury and not pay taxes. Still, five hundred new Medicare accounts were tempting. He could always open another offshore account somewhere else. He’d read somewhere that Germany was offering excellent tax shelters these days. Quickly, he calculated what he could bill those five hundred new patients – equipment, physical therapy, HIV treatments….The possibilities were almost endless, and the US Federal authorities were so lax and easy to fool.
Mon took a deep breath. He was definitely interested. What a wonderful city Miami was. What a wonderful country the United States was. It was without doubt the land of opportunity. Its streets were paved with gold. You just had to know where to prospect it and how to extract it. And he certainly knew how.
“I want,” he said.
Tammy stretched her thin lips into an awful smile. Mon detected some solid gold teeth. Her dental work was definitely foreign.
“Where are you from?”
“Here and there.” She turned serious, which was a blessing because her smile was turning Mon’s stomach. “Why you ask?”
“I like to know who I’m doing business with.”
Tammy frowned and rubbed her chin. “Ukraine.”
“Have you been here long?”
“Miami. The United States. Whatever.”
“Miami, seven months. United States, two years.”
There she went again, eating up all the articles and the verbs. His English teacher would have been horrified.
“I want one thousand dollar patient. You give two hundred dollars more to patient for card number.”
Twelve hundred bucks per patient was a reasonable number. It was a bargain, actually. Mon knew he could make easily one hundred and twenty thousand from each patient. His mind quickly calculated the multiple ways he could legally charge the Medicare system. Oh, America was definitely the land of opportunity. He wondered if Tammy expected him to negotiate. Eastern Europeans liked to barter. Was he supposed to negotiate? She fixed her cold blue eyes on him, waiting for his response. He cleared his throat.
“That, bottom price,” she said as if reading his mind. “You like, no?”
Mon didn’t hesitate. Why negotiate? The deal Tammy had offered him was almost too good to be true.
“I like, yes,” he said.
David Pereda is an award-winning author who enjoys crafting political thrillers and mainstream novels. His books have won the Lighthouse Book Awards, the Royal Palm Awards, the National Indie Excellence Awards, and the Readers Favorite Awards. He has traveled to more than thirty countries around the world and speaks four languages. Before devoting his time solely to writing and teaching, Pereda had a rich and successful international consulting career with global giant Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked with the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Qatar, among others.
A member of MENSA, Pereda earned his MBA from Pepperdine University in California. He earned bachelor degrees in English literature and mathematics at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He loves sports and has won many prizes competing in track and show-jumping equestrian events.
Pereda lives with his youngest daughter Sophia in Asheville, North Carolina. He teaches mathematics and English at the Asheville-Buncombe Community College.
Visit him online at: www.davidpereda.com.
However Long the Night
Havana: Top Secret
Havana: Killing Castro
David will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.