Or how my mid-life crisis got its ass kicked

BASED ON A TRUE STORY (sort of)

By Nick Dangier

PART 2

RETURN OF THE DIRTY 1/4 DOZEN

“If you have to go up river, better to go with seven studs than one-hundred A-holes…” —Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin U.S. Army SF legend

Ole General Boykin is 100% correct. His point is simply that when you are going into harm’s way it’s the caliber of the guy (or gal) standing beside you and covering your “six” that counts, not the quantity. After all, in this case, we ain’t talking about sneaking into Six Flags here or swiping an un-authorized beverage refill at Subway. What I had in mind would entail committing several serious felonies plus the very real possibility of creating an international incident and that’s just by setting foot in Nicaragua without proper credentials, and outside of a legal point of entry. Believe it or not, some countries actually take the integrity of their national boundaries seriously. In addition Costa Rica no doubt has laws regarding people (especially foreigners) instigating problems with her already hostile neighbors.

Our objective, brave reader, was also defended by no less than a platoon (possibly a company) sized element of Sandinista Marines. Of course all backed up by air and naval support. A couple dozen (at least) bored teenagers armed with AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled-grenades (RPG) and only God knew what else. Essentially bored teenagers with itchy trigger fingers and little to no actual combat experience, other than gunning down unarmed civilians, who pray that a couple nosy yanquis show up and try sneaking in; you know so they can find out if all those hours playing Fort Nite and Grand Theft Auto actually paid off. ‘Cause after a while plinkin’ empty tuna fish cans on the beach just doesn’t cut it.

Heavily armed adolescent humans were actually the least of the dangers awaiting us on Calero. The region could best be compared to the Amazon or the bayou of Louisiana. The highest ground is only a couple meters above sea level. Thick mangrove roots covering intermittent spits and islands of soggy ground. A land known to few people and hospitable to none.

Calero is teeming with flies, mosquitoes, venomous snakes and twenty-foot crocodiles. A humid landscape that never fully dries out; creating a moldy, spongy floored environment with the ever present sickly sweet odor of rotting fruit and jungle vegetation. It is actually the smallest of creatures we would encounter there that I dread most: those little black “Klicker” ants.

I found out all about them, the hard way, in La Virgen de Sarapiqui back in 1987. You don’t even know they’re on you at first. They seem to wait until there are hundreds of them in place: down your pants legs, up your shirt, inside your collar and down your back. Then upon some secret, silent signal they all at once chomp down into your flesh with their tiny razor sharp pincers. Short of dousing yourself in gasoline and setting yourself ablaze, the only thing you can do is run-RUN LIKE A SCALDED BASTARD for the nearest body of water you can find. Thank God the little S.O.B.s’ can’t swim. I can assure you the pain is enough to over-ride any fear of diving into a lagoon full of hungry crocs’.

WRITER’S NOTE: Meat tenderizer does wonders in offering relief from the stinging and itching of the hundreds of tiny welts the Klickers leave you as a souvenir of your little visit to the jungle.

If they did an episode of the reality show Survivor on Isla Calero all the contestants would quit before lunch. The first day. In the area around Calero crocodiles were not the only dangerous, pre-historic creatures prowling the river and lagoons. There are also tarpon big enough to swallow a grown man whole. Vicious gar and even bull sharks, which thrive in the cloudy brackish water all up and down the San Juan River and are believed to spawn up in Lake Nicaragua, that can take your leg off before you can scream: “SHOOT THAT MOTHER F#CKER!!!” And those are about the cuddliest of creatures you’ll likely find on Calero.

At Calero there are bull sharks that can take your leg off faster than you can scream: “SHOOT THAT MOTHER F#CKER!!!”

My guys Ratso and The Kahuna are old veterans of Central American adventures. The three of us go back over thirty years. Back to when Costa Rica’s national bird was the pterodactyl and wheels were still square. In fact the three of us, and others, made many an unauthorized visita to Nicaragua as part of the Contra-Sandinista movement of the wild and wacky 1980s’. Ronny Reagan’s “Rough Riders” we called ourselves. Back during Danny Ortega’s first go-around as dictator and Most Exalted Poo-bah of the Republic of Nicaragua. Back when Ortega could dance la cumbia without a walker or adult diaper.

The three of us go back to when Costa Rica’s national bird was the pterodactyl and wheels were still square…

The three of us had never met prior to that hot, gusty day back in January of 1988. Our first encounter was at the notorious and long since defunct Soda Palace- an old colonial style 24 hour bar/cafe-restaurant located smack dab in the middle of San Jose on Avenida 2, across from the Parque Nacional. The goings on I witnessed and famous (infamous?) people I met there warrant a book about the Soda Palace all by itself. Maybe one day…

We were introduced by a larger than life character named Barry. Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler and The Kahuna were barely in their forties at the time. They’d served together in Vietnam; The Kahuna flying UH-1’s (known more popularly as “Hueys”) and Barry- a bona fide Operational Detachment Alpha, 7th U.S. Army Special Forces (“Green Beret”) combat medic. He taught me lessons in field trauma care that I have used since then to save the lives of more than a couple people over the years. Both The Kahuna and SSGT Barry were at the time “affiliated” with a non-profit organization based in northern Virginia, U.S. of A. known by the tongue and cheek moniker of: Christians-in-Action. They were after all engaged in a holy war to defeat the spread of godless communism in Central America, specifically Nicaragua, and around the globe.

“I have no recollection of that, Senator…”

It was Barry who put us together for our first mission as a team. Ironically our destination for that op’ had been Nicaragua as well. The mission we still refer to as: “The Beached Beechcraft Caper” (more on that later). And it was Barry who set into motion the later operation to capture and return to the U.S.A. top 10 Most Wanted fugitive: REDACTED. Both were two of the biggest news stories you never heard of. Sadly we lost the Sarg’ just a few months later. A pair of masked gunmen caught up to him while he was sitting in a taxi cab, stuck in traffic in downtown Guatemala City. As tough as his legend, Mr Sadler held on before succumbing to his wounds a year later at a veteran’s hospital in The States.

Both Sergeant Barry and The Kahuna served together in Vietnam prior to joining Christians In Action and heading off to Central America- where the “action” was.

At the time we all met, Ratso had just wrapped up nearly a decade in the Marines. He left service as an E-7, a testament to Rat’s skill and gun-ho spirit. Better known as a Gunnery Sergeant or simply: Gunny. He’d graduated high school early to join. His military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was Force Recon. A skill set that qualifies you for work on a warehouse loading dock in peace time, but is highly prized and aggressively sought out in time of war.

Barry had needed a couple guys for a “job” in the Middle East and I don’t mean New Jersey. He cajoled us in a futile attempt to con us into taking this contract gig in the Persian Gulf during OPERATION EARNEST WILL. I have no idea what the Sar-rent was thinking; even at $500 per day each, plus expenses. Ratso and I had just months before arrived to gorgeous, tropical Costa Rica. A nation teeming with beautiful, friendly women, virgin waves and good cheap rum. How Barry believed he could sell two single, red blooded, thoroughly heterosexual American dudes in their twenties to abandon Paradise and run off to work for months at a stretch on the scorching deck of a rusty mine sweeper, I’ll never know.

101119-N-6266K-023 STRAITS OF HORMUZ (Nov. 19, 2010) A demolition charge detonates 1,500 meters from the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Scout (MCM 8). The charge was built and detonated by Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 1 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, attached to Combined Task Group 56.1, during joint mine countermeasures training. Scout is attached to Combined Task Force 151 deployed supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Lee Kelsey/Released)

The job was located off the coast of Iran where on a cool day (sub 427F) you couldn’t find a cold beer or Christian girl to flirt with to save your life. It took us all of about ten seconds to say, “ah… thanks’ Sarg’, but we’ll pass.”

MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA – 2013/11/03: Two Muslim girls, dressed in black cloths, are walking at Juhu Beach in the morning. (Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)
“Should I live in Islam or Costa Rica? Hmmm… that’s a tough one.”

The three of us: The Kahuna, Ratso and me made up a diverse team. The Kahuna is our senior by almost twenty years. He comes from the beaches of southern California- Malibu being his home break. Over six-feet tall with bushy blond hair he could have stepped right out of a Beach Boys album cover. The Kahuna was considered something of a deity by the local grommets where he grew up. He rode waves beside pioneering surf legends of the 1950s and ’60s, such as Corky Carrol, Lance Carson and bad-boy Mickey Dora. As aspiring non-Californian surfers, Rat’ and I were in awe of him from the get-go. To top it off, The Kahuna is a licensed pilot, qualified on both fixed wing and rotary aircraft, and comes from old California oil money.

Ratso on the other hand hails from Jackson, Mississippi. His mom was a music teacher and his dad sold insurance. Ratso has a thick southern accent and a quick temper. His gentile southern upbringing included piano lessons. Although he hated the lessons as a child, all those hours of practice paid-off in spades as an adult. Rat’ has the voice of Harry Connick Jr and can play a rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” so dead-on, if you closed your eyes while listening to him play, and didn’t know better, you’d think it was the great Jerry Lee Lewis himself. I used to dread going to parties with him where I knew there’d be a piano. Invariably, once he started playing, every straight female at the shindig would end up hovering around Ratso and the damn piano for the rest of the night.

Throw in your humble writer: a red-blooded, freedom loving, wanna-be cow puncher and adventure seeking Yankee patriot from Boston (Southie to be exact) and you pretty much get the picture. Or just imagine The A Team meets The Three Stooges for a better visual.

I’ve managed to keep in touch with The Kahuna over the years. He’s in Costa Rica most of the time these days and has a beach house down the way from Ratso’s little hotel. Ratso and I hadn’t seen each other since his ill-fated wedding up in Philly, back in the spring of ’99. I was Best Man. The actual wedding never took place. At least the vows part anyway. Soon after Ratso split town to fulfill a diplomatic security gig in Kosovo. I went home to Costa Rica and the ranch, my kids and Queenie. That was twenty years ago. It feels like a lifetime.

I left the wife and kids, and our house guests with the truck and caught the 9:45 am Alfaro bus to Santa Cruz, out of the main station in San Jose. Bless their hearts, they think I’m going surfing. I could have waited and caught the noon bus that passes right in front of our gate, except it’s the run that goes through Caldera. It would effectively cost me a day and I couldn’t spare it. We had a lot to do and a small window of time to get it done. And that’s assuming the boys would be “in”. I had cryptically told The Kahuna, during our short phone conversation, that the reason for my impromptu visit was of “an adventurous nature…” and I didn’t say much more.

I watched the rugged scenery of central Guanacaste roll by my open window; the steel mill-like hot breeze on my face. I thought about my pitch to the fellas. Over the last ten days I’d put a lot of attention into every detail of this operation, except that. They were both fully qualified for the critical roles I needed them for. But would my old pals be willing to go along? If I couldn’t sell them on the potential profit of this enterprise or their sense of patriotism as gringos to strike a blow for freedom whenever and wherever the opportunity arises, my Plan B was to appeal to their sense of adventure. Maybe they were feeling the same longing for the old days I was feeling. Once an adrenaline junky always an adrenaline junky… No? At least that was my plan, as flimsy a strategy as it sounds now.

The bus ride to Santa Cruz was shorter than I remember it being. By 1530 hours we were rolling into the main bus terminal. Santa Cruz, one of Costa Rica’s oldest Spanish missions, has always reminded me of a place straight out of a Sam Peckinpah movie. It has always been my favorite place to see a rodeo; which tend to be wild and out-of-control affairs in little Santa Cruz. Guanacaste is hands down this country’s driest province and Santa Cruz has got to be one of its driest towns. It is ringed by low rolling hills, which let in little breeze. Two-and-one-half months since the last rainfall, it is also hot. Really, really hot. The kind of heat you can actually weigh. The tiny cow town of Santa Cruz is a natural furnace. Brownish dust devils, caused by the extreme heat and dryness, danced around the bus as we lurched and creaked our way into the Central Bus Station’s parking lot.

MOVIE SCENE Film ‘THE WILD BUNCH’ (1969) Directed By SAM PECKINPAH 18 June 1969.

I spotted The Kahuna before I had even stepped off the bus. Actually it was his vehicle that first caught my eye: A vintage 1973 “Toyotona” extended cab diesel beast. Bright lollipop yellow and standing 36 inches from rocker panel to road surface. She was totally restored and mostly factory. What isn’t original are the lift kit, monster mudder tires and paint job. The sound system isn’t factory either. The Kahuna was leaning against the beast smirking at me like only someone born and raised on the beaches of southern California can. He was wearing a camouflaged MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN baseball hat along with a pair of $1,500 amber tinted Varnet transition sunglasses. The Kahuna jabbed a well tanned and well manicured thumb in the direction of the rear hatch door, for me to toss in my gear. I wasn’t carrying much: A tightly packed olive drab sea bag and my rucksack. As I pitched my stuff up into the Toyotona a 4 x 10 inch sticker on the rear window made me stop for a moment. In simple block letters, black on a plain white background read six words: CHICKS DIG ME BECAUSE I SURF.

From a half dozen speakers “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, poured out onto the street. The guy is a living, breathing cliche’… I thought. That old surf classic was followed by “I Wanna Destroy You” by The Circle Jerks, and Frank Sinatra’s ““Summer Wind” came after that. Not your usual music mix. The Kahuna hadn’t changed one iota after all these years. He was still a stone-cold SECTION 8.

Once you get to 27 de Abril the pavement ends. The Kahuna attacks the ruts and huecos like people he still hated since childhood. Each one jarring loose another filling from my teeth. We led a plume of dust clouds stretching for half a kilometer behind us. There are no other vehicles on this stretch of two-track lastre. Along the roadsides live fence posts are covered in layers of fine greyish-brown dust. It looks like tropical snow. Beyond the fence lines are cattle pastures and low rolling hills covered in thick, hardy Estrella grass- turned to gold by the fierce Guana’ sun and lack of rainfall. In the blessed shade of massive umbrella-like Guanacaste trees which dot the mostly flat landscape, lay and stand, their tales swishing from side to side swatting away the ever present flies, dozens of tan and white, and severely gaunt beef cows. The majority a mix of Corrientes and Brahmans. The way their ribs stuck out, they looked like walking marimbas.

“Mooo.”

The Kahuna caught me up to speed on Gunny Ratso’s current trials and tribulations. That Ratso had to cut short a contract in Mali to fly back to Costa Rica for emergency business (and personal) reasons. Only to discover his girlfriend of three years and manager of his little beach hotel had royally f#cked up everything. To top it off it appeared she’d been, in the immortal words of The Great Jimmi Hendrix: “messin’ round with another man.” Not just any guy either, but Rat’s number one competitor in the boutique hotel racket in their little beach community: A retired dentist from Milan by the name of Paolo. Evidently after learning Ratso was back in town and knowing full well of Ratso’s chosen livelihood, the dentista da Milano had most prudently decided to flee to Panama and re-up his Costa Rica tourist visa.

It was The Kahuna who’d contacted Ratso regarding what was happening “back at the ranch…” The Kahuna lived only a few hundred meters from Ratso’s place- also on the beach, so The Kahuna had been looking out for Rat’ while he was in Africa trying to earn an honest living. Ratso had barely unpacked his bags when he found out about his chick and this dentist clown playing hide the salami. That was just two days prior. It wasn’t The Kahuna who’d ratted them out. It was one of the hotel maids. She had not received her salary in over six weeks and so, out of frustration, she had decided on revenge in lieu of payment.

“The poor bastard…” The Kahuna said with true empathy in his voice. “… the Muni’ denied his petition for both his liquor and gambling licenses. He paid eighty-five-grand… CASH! U.S. greenbacks for those patentes not a month before taking off for Mali… with him thinking it was all in the bag- that his girlfriend had it under control…” I could see The Kahuna was taking it hard. Besides Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Donald J. Trump, no other topic of conversation was more sacred to The Kahuna than the topic of money. He paused for a moment to spark-up a comically huge rasta joint he’d pulled from behind the driver’s side visor. He took a modest hit and passed it to me. I took a hit. It was good stuff. Wow. I was pleasantly surprised. No more “Cajeta” monkey shit for The Kahuna. As if he could read my mind he said: “Yeah. Good, huh? I know a Canadian kid in Nicoya growin’ the stuff… It’s a hybrid strain of Northern Lights and Maui Wowie, he calls: ‘Here Comes Autism’. I buy it by the pound.” That explains a lot… I thought it. I didn’t say it.

So as it turns out, Rat’s girlfriend/employee had not paid the workers doing the current remodel and expansion job either, for weeks, causing them to stage a walk off the previous Monday. Nobody knew where Ratso’s novia had run off to. If they did know they weren’t saying. He and Ratso summed up that she’d either taken off for Panama with the dentist or she’d gone back to lay low at her mother’s in Escazu. Wonderful… I thought. In the mood he must have been in at that time, the chances he’d be up for a game of G.I. Joes’ seemed at the time to be a million-to-one-shot against. If I was lucky.

To top it off, The Kahuna said Gunny Rat’ had been “hittin’ the ‘sauce’ pretty hard…” My mind raced to think of a replacement for the Gunny who could be in Costa Rica in time for the Big Evento, but my mind seemed mired by a massive pink marshmallow pinning my grey matter into neutral. The “autism” was really kicking in now. I became hypnotized by the dust covered scenery rolling by. I spaced-out for a while and just enjoyed The Kahuna’s eclectic music mix. I’d figure it out. Somehow.

Eventually the dusty bump and grind of the non-surfaced ranch road became a nice, smooth two-lane paved driveway. We were now on Ratso’s property. His life-long dream come true. I was impressed. From the subtle yet elegant signage at the entrance, to the sprawling sunbathed lawns of manicured Bermuda grass and perfectly spaced 20-foot royal palms flanking the driveway, to the spectacular view of the ocean and proximity to the beach (it literally fronts the bay), Gunny Ratso’s two-and-one-half hectares is a true slice of paradise. The defense contracting racket must pay well. Lord knows, raising cattle breeding stock sure as hell don’t.

I cannot say for sure whether Rat’ possesses supernatural powers of premonition or a hidden closed-circuit TV camera at his front gate, but there he was- in all his glory- standing in the middle of his crushed clam shell parking lot. He was shirtless in a pair of board shorts and flip-flops. The reflection of The Kahuna’s yellow four-wheeled beast crossed the mirrored lenses of Rat’s wraparound Oakley sunglasses as we slowly rolled toward our parking spot. Pretty much the normal attire for coastal Guanacaste at 2:30 in the afternoon. What wasn’t normal attire was the M-4 carbine painted desert camo’, hanging across his chest from a three-point sling. Screwed to the end of its barrel was a buffed aluminum Sig Sauer suppressor. In his right hand he clutched the neck of an industrial sized bottle of Flor de Cana rum. The bottle was only half full. His goofy grin betrayed where the other half of the sweet brown elixir had gone. The Kahuna shot me a see what I mean? glance as we pulled into a spot between a parked John Deere backhoe and a stack of concrete encrusted wheelbarrows.

“Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” The Kahuna exclaimed jokingly, as we crossed the parking lot to where Ratso stood grinning at us; the sun bleached clam shells crunching under our feet with each step.

“Damn, Cat- yer old!” Ratso blurted out with mock sympathy- as if middle age was a disease. One which certainly had not spared him.

“Blow me.” I returned- the stand by of all stand by come-backs. “I look a helluva lot better than your sad-sack ass!” (I do, by the way.) I was no more serious than he was. This was our old routine: incessantly insulting each another. We’d picked up right where we’d left off twenty years ago.

“Is that right? Let me tell you somethin’, Skippy: I look like Brad Pitt in that movie- ‘Troy’…” Ratso said before going into a series of clumsy theatrically exaggerated body builder poses; the M-4’s thirty-round magazine clinking loudly against the glass rum bottle as he did.

“More like Bruce Willis in Die Hard IX: ‘Officer Mclean Has Fallen Down And He Can’t Get Back Up'(it’s true he does look a lot like Bruce Willis).Where’d your hair go, dude? Did those Somalis’ scalp your redneck ass or what?!” His facial expression tightened after I made that retort.

“Mali…” He responded correcting me with just a tad of irritation in his voice. “I was in Mali… MAH-LEE.”

“Whatever…” I said nonchalantly. I knew damn well he was in Mali, not Somalia, but it was good to see Ratso was still easy to provoke. “What’s the difference?” I continued. “Aren’t they all a bunch of gold chain wearing, kat chewing, cognac-n-Coca Cola drinking heavily armed psychos?”

The clearly (in hindsight) racially charged statement hung in the air for what seemed like an especially long and awkward moment. We just stood there sizing each other up- grinning like a couple of morons seeing their own reflection in a mirror for the first time. Then as if on cue we collided in a heartfelt bear hug. The Kahuna looked relieved. I think for a moment there he expected us to start throwing punches at one another. Ratso threw his two thick, heavily tattooed arms over The Kahuna’s and my shoulders. Still holding the rum bottle in his trigger hand, he led us down the bricked pathway to the beach where there were some plastic patio chairs and a table set up right there in the sand. Looking up and down the beach there wasn’t another soul in sight.

Ratso took up the position he had occupied before we showed up- the center seat of the three chairs present. I could tell by the dozens of 5.56mm brass shell casings scattered in the sand behind and to his right. The Kahuna plopped himself down at the table and opened a tall-boy can of Pilsen he’d pulled from a cooler sitting in the shade cast by the little plastic table. On the table were a half dozen spent M-4 thirty-round magazines and three which appeared to be fully loaded. Also there was a 60mm zoom spotting scope sans tripod. The contraption looked like a flat black pirate’s spy glass bent in the middle. I grabbed the spotting scope and plopped down in the chair at Ratso’s three o’clock position. I immediately positioned my chair just forward of the carbine’s ejection port. Anyone who has ever caught a red hot shell casing down his shirt collar knows why. We used to call them “hickeys”. As in: “F#cking Nick gave me a hickey on the range yesterday…”

I raised the scope to my eye. It was hot to touch from sitting in the sun for God only knew how long.”Okay, Gunny…” I said. “What’s our target?” I was scanning the bay searching for an orange colored buoy or something like that, for which the Gunny was using to vent his frustrations.

“Forty-foot sloop…” He replied dead-pan. Ratso was on his rifle, squinting his left eye as he focused his wide open right unblinking eye on his Red Dot rifle scope. “… She’s got a green water line. About four-hun-derd yards dead-on at our twelve o’clock…” The 40-foot single masted sailboat was impossible to miss. Its sails were furled and she was clearly unmanned, evidenced by all the secured hatches and port holes. With the Guanacaste sun beating down on her and completely sealed up as she was it had to be over 100 degrees inside. Other than a 20-foot Hobie Cat moored on the other side of the bay, she was the only sailboat out of a myriad of boats- mostly of the fishing variety: both commercial and sport which dot REDACTED Bay.

“You know the owner?” I asked, truly curious and feeling like I was about to have the most fun I’d had in years.

“Yeah. Some dentist…” He let loose a round. With the gusting wind and Sig Sauer suppressor the rifle’s report had all the volume of a mouse fart at a Metallica concert. Indeed none of us were even wearing ear plugs. I took my eye off the scope for a moment and shot The Kahuna a quick glance. He raised his beer to me and winked- I told you so… he was saying. I got back on the scope. I was focusing on the anchor line, but round after round he missed the anchor line. It finally got to the point where I was so disgusted, I set the spotting scope back down on the table and gave Ratso a smack, Moe style on the back of his balding head. Drunk or not, no Marine could ever shoot this bad; it’s a scientific fact. As I recall, Ratso could clip the wings off a fly at 1,000 yards with a single round from an M-2 .50 caliber machine gun. While eating a box of Pop Rocks.

“What?” He growled. It had obviously been a while since anyone slapped the back of his head.

“WHAT?!?! You haven’t landed a single round!” I barked, feeling indignant at his indignation. Before Ratso could respond, The Kahuna tapped me on the shoulder with the spotting scope and pointed at our very expensive target.

“Look at the side of the hull facing us.” The Kahuna said as if he were pointing out something to a dim-witted child. I raised the scope back up to my eye and did as I was told. I could not help but burst-out laughing. Along the left side of the yacht were hundreds of little black holes forming the words, in letters 3-feet tall, which read: EAT SHIT, GUIDO. Not only were the letters level and equally proportioned, they were also written in cursive and finished with a big, somewhat lopsided smiley face. The smiley face was only half visible. The lower half was below the water line. Several bullets had clearly penetrated the hull causing the boat to take on water, which was evident by the spout of oily sludge flowing from the left side bilge port; the wounded sloop’s automatic bilge pumps working overtime in an effort to keep the craft from sinking.

“I thought you were aiming at the anchor line.” I said timidly, feeling in no small part like a giant dick head.

“Anchor line!!” Ratso exclaimed as if the idea had never entered his mind. He immediately raised the rifle again and with one last “poof” of a round cleanly severed the nylon mooring line keeping the dentist’s yacht from drifting away. With nothing now to keep her in place and with the wind gusting hard offshore, that is to say toward the sea, the graceful and now listing heavily to port sailboat began to swing its bow toward the horizon. Soon she was moving, as if under motor power, off in the direction of Asia. For a moment we bantered about the odds of the boat being rescued before her batteries died and the bilge pumps shut down or she hit the offshore shipping lane and got crushed by a passing oil tanker. There was also the possibility that the sailboat would get picked-up by drug smugglers that proliferate both coasts of Central America. My guess was that she might make it about as far as the horizon before sliding under the waves; call it 30 miles.

Ratso seemed pleased with himself. He shook the now empty rum bottle as if by doing so it might magically produce one last trago, but seeing it was obviously empty he tossed it into the open beer cooler as if he were going for a 3-pointer from center court, splashing ice cold water all over The Kahuna’s bare legs. As hot as it was he seemed grateful for the refreshing spritz of icey cooler water. Ratso stood up, grabbed the spotter scope and gathered up the rifle magazines.

“Okay, ladies, my work is done here.” With that Ratso turned his back to us and headed up the brick pathway back to the hotel. I was about to say something. I mean I’d come a long way and I was eager to pitch my caper to the both of them. Again as if reading my mind, The Kahuna put a hand on my shoulder to stop me and said: “Leave him go, Nicky. He’ll sleep it off. Let’s go to my place and catch the last half of The Five on Fox. You can tell me all about your big adventure there, bud. Then after Tucker Carlson we can pull some tuna steaks out of the freezer and come back to Rat’s for a late dinner… He’ll be easier to talk to then. I promise.” Sound words. I decided to follow the wise Kahuna’s advice. It would buy me more time as far as coming up with my sales pitch at least.

“HAVE A NICE DAY, GUIDO…”

TO BE CONTINUED… don’t miss PART 3 of THE CURSE of CALERO in next week’s exciting edition of The Costa Rica Post.

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