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18TH April 2020

Cuba - Havana Culture - Legends and tales - Timeless - Timely

Shelter(ed) Day 16 – Back to Havana


Chapter 16 – Jorge …no mas

Illustration- Brech bursts into the Miami garage. Ermitas Blanco- Havana.

Women often smoked cigars in Havana. Its naughty, sexy and decadent… And that suited Nina just fine. 

Jorge walked both Sal and Nina through the Humidor Process, omitting a few key steps that he’d already explained to Nina. This gave Sal the impression he had the full download, without really knowing that his Time Travel Tutorial lacked more than a few pages. 

They all lit up, the room filling with blue cigar smoke much quicker with the three of them puffing away. Jorge held a duffel bag of cash in his lap. The timer went off with a “ding.” They waited for the smoke to clear.

When they looked out the window toward the park and saw the tell-tale sign of young Cubans huddled around their iPhones using the WiFi, Nina was relieved to be back in the present and online. For his part, Sal was blown away by what these new handheld devices were capable of doing. For a man in the information business, it was disconcerting to know that in this new time, most of the knowledge of the world was instantly accessible. Of course, what upset Sal simply relieved Nina.

She had thought long and hard about what 1957 photos she would share in 2017, and just how she would “tag” them. She was on the ETECSA WiFi immediately and began uploading to Insta and FB with the new hashtag #BacktoHavana. She omitted anything that would compromise the course of history, and added “sepia” effects to make everything look like a relic she’d just discovered in someone’s attic… except that she was in most of them!

The smoke had cleared, so Jorge began. “Sal, welcome to 2017; you’ll need an updated set of papers and some walking around money”. 

“Where do I get that”? 

“We have a friend at the [Cuban Ministry] in Vedado. You can take one of our cabs there. Here’s the address. Fold this twenty into your passport when you hand it in for the new one.

“We’ll get you set up with a phone and WiFi, and meet you back here by dinner time.”

As soon as Sal was out of sight in the red and white Chevy BelAir, Jorge went for another set of keys.  

Nina asked, “I thought you had extra phones and WiFi cards, Jorge. “

“I do, we’re headed to the airport and Miami. We’ll be back before Sal has a clue.”

Nina and Jorge jumped into another Caddy and headed to a GI specialist before heading to the airport, as virtually no time had elapsed in 2017 since they last passed through Havana. By the time Nina and Jorge made it to the gastroenterologist on South Beach, Nina’s “Insta” was blowing up, and Page Six was calling her about other photos she might have. She let them hang; the shots were sixty years old, and no one else had them. They could wait!

The gastro doctor weighed in. “Well, Jorge, we’ve ruled out diabetes, fungal infections, and cysts. Any idea why and when this flares up on you?” 

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me,” answered Jorge.

“OK, well, let’s treat the symptom, because it’s a very serious health risk. And whatever you’re doing that you think is the cause…just stop! I’m going to start with a course of antibiotics to clear any infection that may be causing this.” 

Nina took the waiting time in the doctor’s office to get back on WiFi and do a little homework. History was never her forte, so she began Googling and downloading Wikis on Cuba in the late 50’s. It didn’t take an historian to realize that Havana went through some major convulsions between ‘57 and ‘59, continuing on a surreal path for the next sixty years. Anyone who was anyone in Havana in 1958 was probably wiped out by New Years 1959. And for sixty years, the Castro brothers danced through the challenges: the CIA and Bay of Pigs. The Russians and the Nukes. The US Embargo. The Crash of the Soviet Union and the Sugar based economy. The “Special Period” where Cubans survived on less than 300 calories a day. The Marielito Exodus, when 20% of the population left for Miami. The petroleum lifeline from Caracas, the severing of same. And the diplomatic whiplash of Obama’s warming embrace followed by Trump’s bucket of cold water. 

Nina grasped what Jorge already knew: Havana 1957 was about to convulse with change, and anyone caught on the wrong side of history would be wiped out. And she was now the one person who knew exactly what would happen next.

As she and Jorge left the doctor’s office, he confided to her, “I’ll live I think. I’ve been on [xx time jumps] and this was the only effect.”

“So, at least we know the limits,” Nina mused. 

“But are you sure you’re willing to risk it?” Jorge asked, genuinely concerned about putting someone into his shoes. Literally.

“I’ll be fine,” she said stoically. “And It won’t be a lifelong habit!”

They walked to the drug store for antibiotics and the normal stock-up list for returning to Havana; candy bars, condoms, burner phones, chargers [insert normal list of Havana requests.]  Once they arrived at Ralph’s Classic Cars, they began filling the backpacks. Technically, Ralph had only been gone a day, so the place was much as he’d left it when he checked out with Jorge. His bookkeeper [Helen] was there, closing out the month. Nina and Jorge exchanged pleasantries. Jorge explained that Ralph had gone on an extended trip and gave her instructions, written in Ralph’s hand, for how to maintain the place in his absence. She had no questions. 

It had happened before. Like the drop-ins of people that seemed to know Ralph well and had passed messages to her about his latest “adventure.

But this next drop-in was different.

[Brech Pearce] opened and closed the door behind him very quickly. Once his eyes adjusted to the light, he was surprised to see that there were more people in Ralph’s garage. He had two classic Ferarris here, but more importantly, his family worked for Ralph and he could trust them.

“Helen, they’re after me again. And this time they’re serious.”

“And you come here? Thanks a lot! I thought you were my ‘smart’ nephew!”

“Well, I’m smart enough to know I can’t stay in Miami! I’m officially [on the lam], but I’ve done nothing wrong!”

“Oh, I believe you Brechy,” said his aunt Helen. “But there are millions of dollars of uninsured cars here, and an angry gang of Russians is likely to ruin some paint jobs. Go ahead, catch your breath. But you’ll have to find a better place to hide out.”

Brech was disheartened but not surprised by his practical aunt; she had always steered him right. As a child actor, she’d urged him to put some money away for days when parts were hard to get – and they were! When he fell into a bad place of mild addiction and undesirable friends, she’d pointed him in the right direction.

And when he began buying Bitcoin settlements after the crash of [2014] she’d provided him a bit of working capital cashing out creditors who

wanted US dollars instead of virtual currency, which seemed even more worthless. Brech had used $2,000 of his savings and Aunt Helen’s to make 940x his money, or $1,880,000 in just over 18 months; he saw a way to do it again! Except that time travel was dangerous.

Brech had made the mistake of carrying his Bitcoin balance in his mobile phone wallet. Anyone that could catch him, could remove his fingernails one by one until he provided the passcodes to unlock his blockchain and transfer his funds. 

This was all just beginning to hit him during a night in South Beach, as a series of sinister Eastern-European types kept tailing him. At one point, knowing that he was just a block away from Ralph’s, he headed to the toilet, jumped the back window, and made a run for it.

“Come with us. They’ll never find you, Nina jumped in. “And we’ll show you a way to replicate the run up of Bitcoin over and over again.”

“Who are you?”

“Friends of Ralph.” 

“And where are you going?”

“Havana. 1957.”

Brech looked at Helen. She just tossed him the keys and his emergency backpack with spare preloaded phones and other necessities. The three of them piled into his [Ferrari xxx] and screeched out of Ralph’s on the way back to the Miami airport, leaving Jorge behind in Miami to see to it’s return. As they moved through airport security, they could barely contain their smiles for how smoothly they had slipped Sal. They had fulfilled their promise: he was technically in 2017, as Finn had promised Meyer. But he was rendered nearly powerless, with no current documents and no iPhone — let alone the knowledge to use one. He had no choice but  to wait for them at the Almendarone Garage once he had his papers in order. Renewing a Batista-era passport wouldn’t be easy to explain without a little bribe.

Within a few hours, Nina and Brech were back in Havana picking up Sal at the Garage and heading toward the Malecon in a ‘57 Chevy, just as a wave hit the car. Sal had no clue what had just transpired, and Nina was not about to share.

By that time, no one was surprised they were in 1957 Havana. Nina had briefed Sal on the basics and Brech completely on time travel, and Brech had hatched a plan to disrupt the entire monetary system in Havana with virtual currency. Both 1957 and 2017 had major currency disruptions at hand; all you had to know was which side of the bet to be on.

And Nina was sure of that one.

~~

Prefer to read the whole Book One? Here is the Table of Contents, with links.

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