Monday, April 03, 2017

SPIROCHETE—Spiralling in Capricorn 4

Sorting through belongings in the Buenos Aires flat.
Tio D telephoned a business acquaintance in Asunción who said it would be no problem to sell Terran Cruiser in Paraguay. We removed everything from it into the wee flat. Most of it will be given away because shipping costs to where ever we go next are high. It’s amazing the things I bought along because I thought I couldn’t live without them, have never used, didn’t have time for and in some instances, forgot I had. Art supplies, some books, a sweater, and meal prep things. Better to have too much than to be caught without.

Wednesday, April 17, we left Buenos Aires, backtracked to Rosario and headed northeast through Santa Fe to Paraguay. The countryside is flatter than the Canadian prairies and kind of boring after the excitement we've had on the road. We tired quickly and had to make the 1370 km trip in three days rather than the usual one or two. Arrived at the Argentina/Paraguay frontier around noon on April 20th, and got into Asuncion, as seems consistent with our luck, during siesta.

A small city of about 600,000, we had no difficulty finding Ferretería Alamana, a shop owned by Tio D’s acquaintance Señor Walter Rheinberg. Walter was on siesta so we wandered the city and stepped into the famous Lido Bar for a mound of French fries with real ketchup, not watery salsa, on a massive hamburger topped with an egg. Maxed out on protein. 

Once siesta was over we returned to the ferretería to introduce ourselves. Señor Rheinberg had a look at the Terran Cruiser then directed us to his air-conditioned office where we sat waiting uncertainly for almost four hours.

It was here that I thought I’d walked into the biggest trap of my life. I was angry with myself. I figured I was with a friend of the family so I had my guard down. I wasn’t watching my surroundings as closely as usual. I was in the back of this shop, Ferretería Alamana, which means German Hardware in English, rose to financial success supplying weapons to Hitler's war machine during WWII, with MJ and two guys.

One of those guys was Walter Rheinberg, a huge, red-faced middle-aged man, very tall but not too strong looking. The other was Klaus, an ugly little dealer from Hamburg Germany, whom I immediately disliked. Whenever he spoke, the weaselly dealer stared directly at me with distrusting eyes. The dealer was sitting across from MJ and me, behind Walter’s massive wooden desk.

Walter was pacing back and forth waving smoke from a long, thick Cuban cigar that he was blowing, not sucking, on. He went to a locked cupboard, triple-locked, and hauled out a bottle of whiskey and shot glasses. He poured them full to the brim and passed them around. Walter downed his shot ending with a large sigh and threw his glass down. 

He nodded to the dealer who obediently downed his whiskey while wincing and sputtering like an ass. Then, they both glared piercingly across the room to where I was sunken into a low, black leather chair. I knew this was some kind of test so I took an extra-long haul on my cigarette and blew it in the dealer’s face, downed the whiskey without breaking my stare, threw my glass down and took another drag on my smoke. I tried to give them a “don’t ever try this again or I’ll waste you” look. MJ did the same.

Walter, obviously satisfied with the test results, excused himself to get back to work. But, he locked us in the room with the jerk of a dealer who was now standing in front of me. I thought, “Shit!” but didn’t allow my emotion to show. I was furious with my stupidity.

The dealer bent forward across Walter’s desk reaching for the drawers. Slowly he opened one and pulled out a pistol. He turned and stood up and pointed the pistol to my face. I didn’t blink but kept staring, my mind racing with hatred. I didn’t look at MJ but felt his tension. I figured I could get out of it by going for a gun I could see on a shelf behind the dealer and pumping him full. When I didn’t break my stare but remained cool under his ridiculous threat, the dealer couldn’t handle it and became child-like. He was returning the pistol to the drawer as Walter walked in with more whiskey. I was silently relieved. Looks were exchanged, nothing was said.

After asking Walter where we could find a safe place to sleep in our vehicle, we were invited us to park and sleep in his courtyard. And with that, he dismissed the dealer, locked up the shop, stuffed himself into an old VW van and led the way to his home. His property was surrounded by an eight-foot brick wall topped with jagged pieces of glass. Don Walter’s courtyard promised to be very safe.

Wall around Don Walter's compound.

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