Spoiler Alert: If you haven't read Streets of Gold Yet, Click Here
If you have Read the Novel, this is the Translated Epilogue.
The epilogue in the novel was originally written in Spanish. While the rest of the book is in English, many of the characters are Hispanic and much of the book involves modern technology. I wanted to incorporate both the character's native language and the extension of our digital age through this last chapter.
Epilogue: The Congress of Seven & Scooby
Fraijanes, Guatemala—Present Day
The jails aren’t like what you’ve seen. They have cells and bars, but that’s where the similarity ends. The cell doors are rarely closed. Prisoners outnumber guards thirty to one so all attention is focused on the perimeter; what happens within those walls is up to the inmates, some of whom have been incarcerated simply because of a tattoo on his arm and others for unspeakable crimes.
One guard in all black, with a wide-brimmed ball cap shielding his eyes, makes a rare trip to the inside, past snarls, avoiding prisoners who hang outside of their open cells to escape the hardened beds.
The cell at the end of the block is bigger, and sound from a television seeps into the hall. The guard approaches. The man inside is sitting with his feet up, smoking a cigarette, but he extinguishes it upon noticing the visitor at his door. His receding gray hair is slicked back, his ink faded from the years. He stands.
“You’re being transferred,” the guard says.
“What took you so long?”
Hector of Seven follows the guard back through the hallway. The inmates pat his back. “Give ’em hell,” they say. “Honor us.”
He is walked past the other guards, who stand with their backs to whatever they’re not supposed to see, and then out through the gates, where a Humvee contains three uninformed men who help him into his seat. They pull away, driving over hundreds of miles of Central American hillside, past small shanty-filled villages, and across the border into Mexico, where the old country lines don’t tell you much, compared to those drawn up by the cartels. On a cracked wall, someone has spray-painted the words “The Bread of the Rich” in neon-green block letters. Finally, they arrive at a jail in Mexico City.
Guards await. They stand tall, more formal in the big city, and handcuff Hector of Seven to keep up appearances. However, as soon as he is released into the cafeteria, they remove the restraints and allow him to join the other six men sitting around a table. The door closes behind the Congress of Seven.
“Is it me or have you got more hair than last time?” Juan of Seven says, eyes red from his own twenty-two-hour drive from Honduras.
“It’s good to see you, too, motherfucker.” Hector takes a moment to greet each of his old friends, all a bit grizzled. With no reason to meet for the last three years, they’d run things via phone and messengers or llaveros. The last member around the table refuses to embrace Hector or even shake his hand. The look of disdain from Victor of Seven tells of their past.
“We’re all tired, so let’s get started,” Aldo says.
“Not me, I took my private plane,” Javi says. He forces a laugh and slaps Hector on the back. “Have a seat, friend. We have a war to discuss.”
“We all know the situation,” Aldo starts. “Without leadership in Los Angeles, the Lords Latino will crumble.”
Hector sits and nods for his carnal brothers to get started. All the members weigh in except for Hector and Victor, who continue to stare at each other.
“What have you heard about the other cities?”
“Same thing. The cops arrested El Diabolo in New York. Got crews laying low in other spots.”
“By my calculations, we got seventy thousand members across the US.”
“That’s not enough to go to war.”
“Not saying we’re no terrorists or nothing, but you know those sand niggers ISIS only got a little over a thousand members, and look what they done.”
“Even if we do activate our soldiers, we’re spread out over so many cities. And what percentage goes into hiding if we give the order?”
Finally, Victor speaks up, never taking his eyes off Hector. “Seems clear to me. We sit back. Wait things out. Then we rebuild.”
“No,” Hector of Seven says. “The Belcher fucked up big time. If I could go cut his head off, I would, but that’s already been taken care of. Still, what he started . . . It’s happening whether we like it or not. The government—fucking all of them—be coming for us. If we sit back and do nothing, we time travel back to the day where we got nothing. The US our biggest source of revenue. Who wants to give that up?”
Hector inspects each member, gauging the approval of his plan. With only two nods, he continues, “So, I got a proposal. We don’t send no messengers or nothing. I personally go to the US. I meet with the leadership of all the major gangs. They’ll join us. I’ll figure out how we do it, but we strike back. We hit those putos in the nuts.”
A couple members shake their heads. “What if our men bitch out like Javi says?”
“Got a plan for that, too,” Hector says. “When I get there, I go find the biggest bitch in the history of L-13. I search through every fucking gutter until I find Borromeo Angel, and I make him wear a crown of his own fingers. All in favor?”
Hector of Seven raises his hand. A second hand joins him from Aldo. Javi glances, that’s two. He raises his hand. Three. One more vote gives Hector his majority.
Victor smirks at Hector, a curious fuck you without saying the words, and then he raises his hand.
Thousands of miles away, in the kitchen of a roadside bakery, Scooby sloshes gray water over the floor with a mop. A splash jumps up onto his plain black shoes. The scuffed toes reveal the tan leather insides.
His manager wears a trucker hat and sets a to-go container atop the oven. It smells wonderful. “I know I can only pay ya the $4.75 an hour, but hopefully all these leftovers make up for it,” he says with a slow Southern drawl. “You’ll enjoy this one, Romeo.”
“Thank you,” he says.
Scooby turns to resume work, but the jingle of keys dropped atop the Styrofoam container stops him. It’s the first time he’s heard this sound. Scooby turns back to his manager.
“I think you’re ready to close up,” he says straightening his trucker hat, a nervous tick. “You’ve earned my trust, Romeo.”
Scooby nods. Thirty minutes later, he locks the back door with the to-go container tucked under his arm. Moonlight at his back casts shadows from tall oak trees at the edge of a forest that lines most of the tiny rural town.
His nightly trek starts at a normal pace. He now walks with a limp from the bullet hole in his foot, but hastens with the realization that closing up took an extra few minutes and he doesn’t want to be late. He’s only got an hour. In Los Angeles, people stay out of the street, but in his new town Scooby keeps right down the middle of the straight, flat dirt road since some nights not a single car passes. Tonight that changes.
The first sign is a halo of yellow light rising in the distance onto the leaves rustling in the trees. The crickets’ chirping fades under the distant rumble. Scooby moves over to the grassy drainage rut. He doesn’t hide or change his pace. There’s nothing to be afraid of here, not like where he’s from.
The halo turns into an orb of light in the distance. As it nears, the single bright spot separates into two distinct headlights. Scooby expects the lights—probably belonging to a pickup truck—to fly past leaving a trail of dust, but the SUV slows. It’s a black Suburban.
Suddenly, he wishes he’d hid in the woods. He’s been so careful over the past three months, changing his name, staying out of sight. That’s why he and Sophía had travelled so far away in the first place. It’s why he put her in the program. It’s why he walked ten miles from his tent to the only place willing to pay him even a fraction of what he would have made in L-13.
The Suburban’s passenger window rolls down. “Y’know, they’ve spotted grizzlies ’round these parts recently. Don’t reckon I’d walk alone at night.”
Scooby never gets a view of the driver, but the twangy accent puts Scooby at ease. “I keep that in mind.”
“If you’re close, it’d be my civic duty to drive you.”
“Got a bit to go, but thank you.”
The SUV peels away, leaving relief in the trail of dust. Not that Scooby wants to take a lift anyway, but he can’t have a car drop him off at his destination without being detected.
The walls of trees on both sides of the road open occasionally to deep yards and grand homes. Scooby turns into one and hugs the perimeter, lurking beyond the swing set and playhouse, always remaining in a shadow.
Warm orange light radiates from a few windows, but nobody can be seen inside, so Scooby runs through the exposed part of the yard to a gigantic oak in the back, not more than ten feet from the rear of the house. The tree’s branches twist away from the thick trunk—the lowest hangs a foot over Scooby’s head. Reaching high, he balances the to-go container on it. With both hands free, he wedges the toe of his shoe in between crevasses in the bark and propels himself upward, leaving new scuff marks. Scooby sits on the branch, facing the only dark window. The leftovers sit untouched at his side. He waits.
He wonders if he missed it. Another five minutes pass. Finally, the bedroom light flicks on. Sophía enters, her curly hair bobbing above the sill. Scooby thinks he catches a smile as she hops on the bed with the energy of a happy little girl, or at least an energetic one. An elderly woman who wears her hair in a bun follows Sophía and tucks her into bed. Sitting next to his baby sister, she reads what appears to be a picture book and points out images as she flips through the pages.
Scooby never met Mr. and Mrs. Holliday, but the agency assured him they would take good care of her. Although he’d promised himself to never let go of Sophía again, reality struck fast, and the streets, or the equivalent of the streets here, were no place for his sister. He took up residence at a tent city in the woods, which wasn’t all that bad considering the free accommodations allowed him to save the money from the bakery. There were challenges, of course, like showering and cooking, but he learned from new friends who’d survived on nothing for far longer than him. The stories he could tell after only three months . . . but Scooby pushes the struggles out of his mind so they don’t ruin the best part of his day.
Mrs. Holliday stands and turns the bedroom light off.
After a minute, Scooby hops off the tree, grabs the to-go box, and tiptoes to the window. Ever so gently, he taps on the glass. Sophía had been waiting and immediately opens it.
“Shh,” he whispers. “Ain’t no Scooby no more.”
“Yeah, got you another feast just like I promised, baby girl.”
“What is it?”
He sets the container on the sill and opens it. “They put ham and all the freshest vegetables you ever gonna taste on this fancy bread we call a croissant.”
The lettuce is a bit wilted, but Sophía picks up the sandwich and takes a bite. Her eyes light up. “Mr. Holliday made spaghetti, but I said I wasn’t hungry so we could eat together.”
“You remember the deal, though.” He hands her an imaginary key that she uses to lock her lips together and then hands it back.
“But,” she wonders aloud, “why don’t you live here, too?”
“Because I gotta hustle so we can get our own place.”
“You need a place to sleep, though. Where do you sleep?” Concern spreads over Sophía’s furrowed brow.
“No place for little girls, but don’t worry, it’s pretty dope,” Scooby says. He speaks as if painting the vision of a dream world. “I sleep with the wolves and mice and birds. It be like living at a zoo, but all the animals be free and happy.”
“Well, maybe just for tonight you can stay here.”
Scooby tries to talk her out of it by explaining Mrs. Holliday might not like that, but Sophía pleads with him to snuggle her like he used to.
The window is above his head, making any sort of hug impossible. Scooby checks around the yard before grabbing the window frame and pulling himself up and into the house.
The inside of the room is warm. Toys hang off a shelf bigger than the one that used to serve as the pantry back home. Scooby crawls into bed next to his baby sister, and she nestles her head on his shoulder.
He smiles. Once she’s asleep, he slips out through the window to do what he’s got to do.
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