Monday

Belize Survivor, part 102

Not only was the jewelry going well, but the furniture division of the Lost Gringo Trading Company was also on the move, and Max hired a crew of four woodworkers. Although the prototype of the improved deck chair had turned out beautifully, he was still discontent with the amount of time it took to make each one. Unable to fabricate the crescent moon and develop the chairs at the same time, Max hired two more employees dedicated to the exclusive production of John's orders. Further preoccupied with efficiency and materials projections, he began to spend a lot of time at the hotel talking with local businessmen.

"Ntombi, I have got to find a way to make these chairs faster so we can bring down production costs. I think the key to the whole thing would be to buy two more machines: a double-sided planer and a bell saw. First, the wide planks would get run through the planer which grinds both sides smooth in one process. After that, the plank would go through the bell saw, which makes multiple cuts. This would create instantly workable slats, already cut to size. Then all we’d have to do is drill and route the edges and wire them up. I’m thinking we could produce thirty percent more chairs and reduce costs by almost twenty percent."

"Are machines like that available here in Belize?"

"No way. Somebody would need to go to the States again. I went the last time; I was thinking maybe you'd like to go this time."
The States. It had been so long since Alexis had been there; she couldn't even imagine what it would be like. After five years, many things were sure to be different. In a way the prospect excited her, but in other ways she didn't know if she had the nerve. She wasn't used to life in any lane any more, let alone the fast one.

"Of course, it wouldn't just be a buying trip," Max continued. "We can't afford any dead-heading. I'll arrange for you to take a shipment of ‘moons’ with you and you can deliver them to John. Also, while you're in Miami, you can buy more bulk silver."

"And you're comfortable with me handling the arrangements for shipping back the machines?" she asked tenuously.

"Sure Ntombi. We'll go over all that stuff in detail before you leave. I have the name of a contact in Miami who will be able to help you find a Rockwell machinery dealer in the area. We can call him before you go. His name is Sid, and he’s a friend of a guy I met recently at the hotel. I think you met him here at the house one day – a big tall guy named Brad Tongas."

The sun had been down for two hours when Alexis finally pulled into the driveway a few days later. It had been a long selling trip to Belize City and she was dog-tired. Gathering the jewelry display board and the jumble of packages, she started up the stairs of the house. Max and Brad Tongas were sitting around the coffee table, involved in an animated discussion. In front of them was a small plastic bag, dusty with white powder, a mirror, and a razor blade. Long white lines were laid out and a rolled-up U.S. hundred dollar bill lay beside it. Max was laughing.

"Hey Alexis, just in time. You remember Brad."

"Yes, I do," she said, coolly. "Max, can I see you in the bedroom for a moment, please?"

He walked in behind her as she threw the stuff down on the bed. "That was a little bit rude. What's the deal?"

"Where is Jordan? Is he in bed?" she demanded.

"Yeah, he went to sleep about an hour ago."

"And suppose he should wake up? You've got drugs lying on the coffee table."

"He's just a little kid. He'd be half asleep and wouldn't know what was going on anyway. Boy, are you uptight. Why don't you come out
and do a line or two?"

"Why do you have that man in the house?" Alexis persisted. "I don't want him here."

"Don't take that fucking tone with me,” he snapped. “He's my guest. I invited him.” She looked into Max's eyes. He was sky-high; his eyes shone wildly and were as black as two pee holes in the snow.

Alexis backed off immediately; it was wise to pick her battles when it came to Max. "I'm sorry. It's just that the guy makes me very nervous. A little smoke in the house is one thing, but cocaine is something else. Did you know he carries a gun? I saw the bulge in his shirt on the first day met him."

"I'm sure you're wrong," Max argued.

"I saw it."

He paused, then changed the subject. "So, did you get your airline ticket?"

"Yes. I'm booked for Wednesday on the morning flight."

"Good," said Max, beginning to relax again. "Now come on out and sit with us for a while. Have a snort or two. I know you’re probably tired, but this will wake you up."

"I don't want to wake up. I want to go to sleep.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Goodnight.”