Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.

All Things Must End

Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.
Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.
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The ride to the airport seemed to take forever. Thankfully, the driver wasn’t particularly talkative which was fine by Aedan because his mind was busy considering why Noel might have left without saying a word when she seemed full of excitement about going out sailing with him and the Carlson’s the evening before. Never letting his guard down, he had been holding some internal reservations about their chance meetings among all the extraordinary events since leaving Seattle for this trip. However, those concerns were washed away in the many hours they had spent together yesterday. Now he found himself wondering if she had possibly become a target because of the secondary reason he was in Havana – to collect information about the case he was trying.

It seemed the taxi every red light during the 15 minute trip to the airport but each time the driver looked into the rear view mirror to check on his passenger, Aedan was looking out the window, deep in thought. When the taxi pulled up to the curb, before the driver could say a word, Aedan had already stuck his hand over the seat back to hand him the money for the fare while simultaneously opening the door.

Aedan jumped out of the car and headed immediately through the glass doors. Once inside he stopped and scanned left to right looking for a flight information board. He quickly spotted one down the hallway in front of him. He was looking for flights that had departed early in the morning since Noel had checked out so early. He saw nothing. Nothing on the boards went back that far.

On his way to read the board, he had passed a counter for the airline that he had arrived by earlier that week. Knowing that the attendants there spoke english very well, he approached the counter and asked the young attendant if she could tell him any flights that left between 5 and 8am. The attendant looked curious but without going into details he told her enough that she typed onto her keyboard and within seconds had a list of five flights that had departed during that window. Four were to various locations in Central and South America. One was to Miami.

Aedan stopped the attendant when she mentioned Miami. “Which airline was the flight to Miami on?”

“Oh, that was our flight, Senor” she quickly responded. “It left at 5:25 this morning and was right on time.”

“Can you tell me if there was a Noel Jensen on that flight?” Aedan took a long shot. He figured he knew the answer but had to ask, anyway.

“No Senor, I’m not allowed to give that information to you.”

Aedan was putting together his angle of attack, family…emergency…call for a manager. There must be a way to find out if she was on that flight. As he sifted through the possibilities his phone rang.

He pulled the phone from his pocket and saw Noel’s number. Thanking the attendant, he stepped away from the counter even as he was pushing the button to accept the call.

“Noel, where are you?” The concern was evident in his voice.

“Aedan, I’m sorry. I tried to call but…”

“Are you OK? Where are you?” He didn’t realize he didn’t let her finish her sentence.

“I’m at the airport in Phoenix, waiting for my mother to pick me up.”

Knowing she was safe, Aedan felt a weight lift from his shoulders. He made his way to the door to find a quieter spot to continue the conversation.

Noel had tried to call several times after she got a call from her mother telling her that her sister wasn’t expected to make it through the day, but the calls went straight to voicemail which told her his inbox was full. She hadn’t considered texting. Even while she waited to transfer planes in Miami there was no answer.

Aedan nodded as he listened to her. He was probably just waking by the time she reached Miami. He would look into his inbox being full after they talked. He hadn’t received any calls at all today.

Noel didn’t know the full extent of her sister’s condition yet. She had been ill for several months now but everyone thought she was doing well with the treatment. Noel promised that once she knew more she would call again.

The next two days were full of relaxation and exploration. Aedan enjoyed another relaxing evening with Ms. Romero, her family and others that came to relax and play games. The following day, he made it out sailing with the Carlson’s. The relative silence and power of using the wind to propel a sailing vessel through the water is mesmerizing and once again whetted his appetite for finding his own boat

On his last day in Cuba, Aedan found himself on the beach taking inventory of all that had happened since he left on vacation which felt like months ago. He had all but forgotten the huge change in his physical appearance. Or perhaps he hadn’t. Somewhere along the way he had decided to let his beard grow out as a possible way to distract attention from looking 20 years longer than when he left. He knew it wouldn’t be that easy but it was all he could do for now. Then there was the matter of the key and cryptic message from the theater and what that could possibly mean for the case he was trying.

He had come to Cuba to get an answer. Whether he found that answer or not he couldn’t know yet but he knew that he was possibly returning with more questions than answers.

 

Sunset

Havana Sunset

Sunset
Sunset at Morro Castle
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Even the creeping sun that had found its way across the floor, up the side of the bed and slowly to Aedan’s closed eyes struggled to get him to move this morning. If there was to be a match of wills and patience though, Aedan would surely lose. He rolled over to get out of the glaring beam but the damage was done and he had no intention of wasting the day away…though at the moment it was quite tempting. He was out much later than he had intended the previous night.

Before he finished his second and intended to be last drink the previous night, the waitress set another before him. He began to protest but she only smiled and pointed to an older couple sitting at a table overlooking the deck. Aedan turned to thank them and tried to determine if he knew them or if they had ever met. He didn’t recognize them. The man appeared to be in his 60s, bald, tall and lanky with a mess of a beard that was mostly white. The woman, with strawberry blonde hair pulled into a ponytail flashed him a cheerful smile. Aedan guessed she was more than ten years younger than the man. Both were dressed casually in shorts and t-shirts. Both were quite tanned. Both sported sunglasses pushed back on their heads.

Aedan thanked them for the drink and they immediately invited him to come sit with him. With two drinks already behind him, he accepted the invitation. It would be nice to have an extended conversation where he wasn’t feeling guilt for not knowing more Spanish and to take his mind off of other things he couldn’t do anything about right then.

The couple had sailed their boat to Havana from St. Petersburg in Florida. Several years prior, Aedan had missed his chance at such an opportunity but hadn’t given up entirely. Once they learned that he too was a sailor, the conversation and rum continued for two hours and ended with an invitation to go out with them later during the week.  Of course he couldn’t refuse the invitation.

This morning, Aedan was remembering why he hadn’t had rum for a long time – well not since his first night in Havana. He was scolding himself for his indulgence when his phone began ringing.  He reached for the phone with his eyes still closed. Finding the phone in the charging cradle, he opened his eyes and saw the number. He didn’t recognize the number but the area code he did from his time at UC Davis School of Law in California. Nobody had called him from Sacramento for a very long time. 

Still half asleep, Aedan debated about answering for two rings before giving in. The quiet was so nice.

“Hello?”  There was certainly a question mark to his greeting.

“Aedan?  It’s Noel.” 

The fly on the wall smirked at how quickly he sat up and opened his eyes.

“Noel! I’m glad you called. How are things?”

“Oh, everything is fine.  I’ll tell you later if you like. I’m back in Havana and was wondering if you’d like to meet me for lunch.” 

Aedan was on his feet and wiping the sleep from his eyes, for the first time noticing how high the sun was.

“Sure. Do you have a place in mind?”

“Actually, I noticed a place around the corner from my hotel that had veg options on the menu. We could try that if it’s not too far for you”.

They talked for another ten minutes and agreed to meet in a little over two hours.  The restaurant was across the way from Morro Castle which was on Aedan’s list of things to see. It was a date and Aedan had an hour to pull himself together.

Ten minutes ahead of time, Aedan hopped out of a taxi at the place that Noel had told him about. He was able to get there with only the name of the street and restaurant since Noel hadn’t noticed the address. She was already there and sitting at a table outside. They had agreed to dress casually for walking and exploring but as he looked at her from the distance, he wondered if it were possible for her to dress casually. As he got closer he assured himself that she would look great in whatever she wore.

They shared a pleasant lunch and filled in a lot of blanks that were left from their first meeting. She had divorced a few years earlier and now enjoying her life doing as she pleased after a long, tumultuous relationship.  There was much they had in common. No, she wasn’t vegan as Aedan had hoped but receptive to the idea which was enough to keep his interest.

“So, what do you think about the place you saw yesterday?”  Aedan was truly interested in learning what her plans were.

“Oh, it was nice but..” she paused “It’s really tough finding a place here with all the restrictions.  I’d be relying on the owner and that is concerning me. I need more time. Otherwise it would be perfect. I love the simplicity of things here.”

“Yeah, the people are friendly. “  Aedan replied without acknowledging his secondary purpose there – to gather evidence of a crime.  “But I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your needs. The first challenge is knowing what you want and you seem to have that in the box. There’s nothing wrong with perseverance.”

“Speaking of that.” Aedan nodded toward Morro Castle across the way but perfectly visible to them, “Are you ready for a walk?”

It was a good walk to Morro Castle but today was also a bit cooler than the day before and without realizing it, he had acclimated to the Havana climate. It was also a slow, relaxing walk with Noel. Aedan was feeling a good connection with Noel and thought for certain that she was also. Words flowed like wine.

Morro Castle has a long history. Actually, several structures share the name “Morro Castle” with refers to the rocky point that it is built on. The true name is Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro which refers to the three Magi of the bible.  It was first built in 1598 but has seen many changes and hostility since then. It once imprisoned the Cuban poet, Reinaldo Arenas. Today it primarily a historical structure and tourist attraction though the Harbor Master keeps a presence there.  The lighthouse was added in 1846.

Noel appeared to enjoy the tour self-guided tour and exhibitions as much as Aedan did. He gathered that it wasn’t the history that interested her but the art on display and watching her painstakingly noting every detail made him look a second time to see what he had missed.  It was one of the guides mentioning that the gates would close in fifteen minutes reminded them they would have to leave soon.

Aedan and Noel made their way back around the bay to where they met. Like a child, Noel was on and off of the stone wall along the walkway until they reached point across from the restaurant where they met. Her playfulness made him smile. That is where they sat and talked for another hour as the sun fell from the sky.

In that hour they shared more deep thoughts…more small talk. The similarities were many and for the most part, the differences were minor or things Aedan just hadn’t given much thought to. He has always seen the world from the big picture and was quite set on his ideology. Some things he felt were unimportant and yet when she talked about them he could see their value because he could see how she lit up.

As the sun set over the ocean Aedan remembered his invitation to go sailing the next day and told Noel of his chance encounter.


“I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I brought you with me. 

There was no hesitation.

“Of course I’d like to go. My uncle had a sailboat and I used to love going out with him…and best of all, I have no plans for tomorrow.”

She went on to tell  how her uncle later went on to be a Zen Monk and how she enjoyed spending time with him.  This peaked Aedan’s interest but it was beginning to get dark now and he wasn’t pushing his luck. He stood and offered his hand to her though she had been jumping on and off the wall with little though.  She smiled and took his hand.

“Yes, I nearly forgot that I need to call my sister.  She’s not doing well.” as she stepped down from the wall.  “What time tomorrow and oh! Where is the boat?” Noel asked.

“We’re heading out around eleven and should be back in time to watch the sun set again.  He said the Marina is right here in Old Havana. Now that I have your number, I’ll give you a call as soon as I know for certain.”

The walk back across the street to Noel’s hotel went faster than Aedan had expected. Had they not agreed to meet the next day it would have been more difficult to say goodnight but they had and so they did.

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