The Melon Assassination
Rich docked and slept the night. He was up before the sun and by the time breakfast ended a glow appeared in the east. Rich stirred with anxiousness to see Dennis; to catch up on events in Rockland.
He trusted Dennis would not contact Sam White or Dave Smithson. After all, Dennis helped him escape a certain terrible outcome.
Rich waited for the marina office to open. He contacted the manager and paid a week’s rent. He used the phone and called the Rosada. Dennis had not yet checked in.
It was a short walk to the terminal from the marina. It was an excited walk. It seemed like a world and an eon from Rockland, when, in fact, it was only 6,000 miles and about eight months. He wondered if Dennis might bring him any news about The Beacon, Sam White, or Dave Smithson. He had little interest in Peggy, but was concerned how Dennis dealt with the divorce. Had the CIA contacted him? Dennis said nothing over the phone. Would it be possible that someone followed Dennis?
Rich’s pace quickened as he neared the terminal.
“I have to be cautious,” Rich thought.
Before Rich entered the terminal he rented a Volkswagen and parked it in the terminal parking lot and walked inside the lobby.
He waited for each flight from the east cost hoping one of them might have Dennis aboard. At 1:15 Rich spotted Dennis passing through an arrival gate. Rich slid beside a phone booth and watched Dennis go through customs and walk past with a carry-on bag. Rich waited until he turned at the concourse leading to the baggage claim.
“No one would have to follow him to baggage claim,” Rich thought. “If someone tailed him they could already be there. After all, where else would Dennis go?”
Rich stayed far behind Dennis and observed anyone near him who might look as if they might be following. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Rich stepped in a phone booth as Dennis waited for his luggage. He called the Rosada to check if Dennis made a reservation. He did not.
The baggage handlers sat the luggage on the floor and the passengers rushed to grab their bagslike grand opening customers. Dennis waited and casually grabbed his single brown leather bag.
Rich hurried out a side door to the parking lot and quickly maneuvered in a position to observe Dennis or anyone who might follow.
Dennis walked from the terminal. He waved for a cab, climbed in, and it rushed away. A brown Opel followed the cab. Rich waited and stayed far behind. He knew where Dennis was heading, so there was not need to follow closely. Rich stayed several cars behind, but was able to observe Dennis’s cab was definitely followed by the brown Opel.
The cab dropped Dennis at the front entrance to the Rosada. The Opel parked on the opposite side of the street. Rich drove by and parked a block away. He climbed out of the car and stood in the shade of a building. He waited a few moments and walked inside a small store. He purchased a pair of sun glasses.
Rich placed the sun glasses on and walked back out on the sidewalk. He watched the man get out of the Opel. The man looked up and down the street. He was an average size man in his thirties wearing a tan suit and a white shirt without a tie. He wore a black beret with a small red tassel on top. His skin was light and hair light brown.
He perched one foot on the bumper of the car and lit a cigarette. He held it between his thumb and middle finger.
“He’s not American,” Rich thought.
The man walked across the street and into the motel.
Rich walked by his car and looked inside. On the back seat a black case laid. It was about three feet long.
“Rifle,” Rich thought.
Rich found a phone booth and called the Rosada. He asked for Mr. Hudson’s room.
Dennis answered. “Hello.”
“Dennis,” Rich said. “this is Rich.”
“Rich, where are you?” Dennis said.
“I’m not far from you,” Rich said. “You are being followed. Can you get to a widow to the street in front of the motel?”
That is where my room is,” Dennis said. “I can put down the phone and go look.”
“Go to a window a peek out. Be careful not to let anyone see you. Look across the street,” Rich said. “There will be a man in a black beret standing next to a brown Opel.”
“I’ll be right back,” Dennis said.
A moment later. “Rich, I see him.”
“He’s followed you from the airport,” Rich said. “Don’t worry, it’s me he wants.”
“What should I do?” Dennis said.
“Leave your luggage at the desk. Go outside and find the nearest restaurant. Have a bite to eat. Look at your watch a lot, appear impatient, look around as if waiting for someone, but don’t overdo it.”
“What are you going to do?” Dennis said.
“In an hour go back to the hotel and grab your bag. Leave your key at the desk for Mr. Larsen and find a back door or side door to the hotel,” Rich said. “Walk a couple of blocks south of the hotel and a couple blocks east. Come back to the same street the hotel is on. There you will find a small park. Wait there for me.”
“What then?” Dennis said.
“I’ll eventually show, we talk about old times, and enjoy Buenos Aires,” Rich said. “See you in about an hour or so.”
Rich hung up and drove back to the Beyond. He fed Zeke, grabbed the .45 and tucked it in his jacket.
Rich drove back toward the Rosada. He stopped at a men’s clothing store. He bought a red sport jacket and a matching fedora. Around the corner from the men’s clothing store was a market. He bought a melon that fit the hat.
Rich drove to the Rosada and parked a block away. He walked to the front entrance and paced back and forth. He looked at his watch and paced some more. The brown Opel was in the same place and the man sitting inside.
Peripherally he watched the man in the brown Opel. The man opened an envelope and pulled something out. “A photo,” Rich thought. “Now a front view.” Rich removed his hat and scratched his head. He looked in the direction of the man. “How’s that?” Rich thought. “Is that a good enough look.” Rich tapped the hat back on his head and walked inside the Rosada.
At the front desk he said, “I’m Mr. Larsen. I believe you have a key for me.”
“Yes, sir,” the clerk said. “214”
Rich grabbed the key and rode the elevator to the second floor and room 214.
He entered the room. The curtains were drawn. He set a chair with the back to the window. The sport jacket was stuffed with a couple pillows and placed in the chair. He placed the melon to look as if a head on the red sport jacket. He set the hat on the melon and cocked it to the back of the melon so the melon skin would not be visible.
Rich stood to the side of the window and pulled open the drapes.
At the same time he heard the glass crack, the melon shattered.
“I’m dead,” Rich murmured.
Rich grabbed the phone and called the front desk. “This is an emergency. A man has been shot in 214.”
Rich exited the room and streaked down the steps. In the lobby he walked calmly to the window. He saw the man in the beret exit a door from across the street. He walked casually to his car. A police car arrived and the man drove away.
Rich looked at the top of the building across from the hotel. He saw the barrel of the rifle protruding above the parapet. Rich left the Rosada and walked to his car.
The park was a short drive; only about three blocks. Dennis sat on a bench a few yards off the street.
Rich stopped and rolled down the window. “Hey, cowboy, you new in town?”
Dennis looked around, grabbed his bag, and trotted to the car. He tossed his bag in the back and climbed in the front seat.
“Good to see you,” Rich smiled.
Dennis wore a bewildered look on his normally calm face. “Good to see you, but what’s going on?”
“Well to start with, I’ll pay you back for the room,” Rich said.
“What!” Dennis said.
“Let me back up and give you a synopsis,” Rich said. “I’ll start with being chased by police at Cape May and end with a shattered melon in Buenos Aires.”
“You’ve finally taken up drinking,” Dennis said.
“Let’s get to the Beyond,” Rich said as he shifted into first gear and jerked away.
“Beyond?” Dennis said. “Who taught you to drive?”
“The Odyssey had to be renamed,” Rich said. “It has to be Vee dubs, my jeep was always smooth.”
“Maybe we should start at the beginning,” Dennis said. “And importantly does this have anything to do with me being interviewed by the FBI a few weeks ago? Your jeep shifting was never good.”
Thus, Rich informed Rich about how that interview came about. They arrived at the Beyond where Dennis and Zeke had a brief introduction and Rich told the rest of the events leading to the present.
“Why did you call me to come down here?” Dennis asked.
“You once expressed that someday you’d like to visit South America,” Rich said. “You’d never do it on your own without the urging of a friend. And selfishly, I just wanted to see an old friend. I miss the times we had. I miss the way things were.”
“But things won’t be the same will they?” Dennis said.
“Nothing is,” Rich said. “We just make new memories.”
“So what do we do?” Dennis said.
“What are the chances of the guy in the beret finding us in a city the size of Philly?” Rich said “Besides he thinks I’m dead. I doubt if he’ll stick around long enough to read in the newspapers he shot a melon. He’s probably on a flight back to Europe by now. So I got an idea; let’s spend a few days here. We sail to Montevideo spend some time there and you fly back home from there. It’s not everyday a melon gets assassinated. News may reach Europe and he might come back.”
“Do you think a guy could get some sleep first?” Dennis said. “I’m bushed.”
“Sure,” Rich said. “I got the forward quarter ready for you. Get some rest. We don’t have to do anything until tomorrow.”
Dennis opened the door the forward quarters. He turned on the light and leaned his head in. “Cozy.”
“Yeah,” Rich said, “and by the way, I do real good on a motorbike.”
“What are you talking about?” Dennis said.
“Weren’t we talking about shifting gears?” Rich said.