Disciple’s triumph

Part of the ‘Cazique of Poyais’ story – read more here

Jose wandered slowly behind to the back of the tavern. It occurred to him that, while he had probably been absolutely everywhere in Belize Town, he did not think he had been to this exact location. Not half an hour after meeting this mysterious Mr. Perez and he was already finding himself in new locales with exciting new horizons.

He worried that they would in fact be out of reach, however. Jose had little of value in this world. It was not that he was frugal or wasteful with what he earned. There simply wasn’t much of it. His sister, Noemi, likely had some saved and their uncle, Tito, had some land. Tito had not worked in many years though, so it was Jose and Noemi that looked after him and in return they live in his house. It was not an obligation to them. He was their last family in this world and they would not let go of him. At times, Tito thought this was stupid. Why did they not go out in the world and build their own families? This was the common refrain of Tito.

Money was not a real blocker. It was just that it did not seem possible that Jose could afford all that Daniel offered. He was sure that it would come at a good price. Yet this good price was still likely to be out of the wildest hopes that he could possibly imagine.

Self deprecation was somewhat of a way with the Mercordas. Jose chastised himself for writing off his chances. Their chances, really, as he planned to take both Noemi and Tito with him, if this opportunity ever turned into something real. What was the use in writing it off before he had even had a conversation with Mr. Perez?

So, he waited patiently, sitting on a empty barrel, for Daniel to appear.

After a short period, though longer than Jose would have liked, Daniel appeared in the back alley behind the tavern. He maintained the same suave look he had about him during the entire presentation outside the tavern. Calm, collected and completely in control. At this moment, unlike previously, it was exactly how he felt.

Daniel looked at Jose. This was one of the young people he had been very interested in meeting. Enough that he had paid his boss to ensure that it happened. Few things can truly happen by chance, but they certainly need to appear so. That was a mantra of Daniel’s. What Jose didn’t really know, and precisely what Daniel was counting on, was that Tito Mercorda, Jose’s uncle, had ripped off some men a long time ago and been able to fetch some Mahogany off the back of some shipments coming at no price at all. Unfortunately, Tito became sick after and had been unable to ever rid himself of this. Along with the land he owned, Tito was actually, on paper, a wealthy man. It would have been impossible to con Tito, but there was a fighting chance with Jose.

“Hello young man. We didn’t ever properly get to introduce ourselves to each other. You may well have heard, but for forms sake, my name is Daniel Perez.”

“Jose Mercorda, sir. A pleasure to meet you.”

“Indeed it is. A pleasure to meet you as well. I must thank you again for bringing my coin purse back to me. I may have found it eventually, but you have saved me a great deal of trouble. Now, what can I do for you? Does my proposition interest you?”

Jose considered his position carefully before responding. In his mind, he knew there must be a way that he can convince this man, Daniel Perez, that they were like minded and therefore that he, Jose, was worthy of assistance. Worthy of a ticket to a better life.

It was a cruel quirk of fate that Daniel Perez was hoping that Jose would at least say something in the positive, so that he could lead him down the path to his eventual ruin. The others would likely follow and produce some profit, but Daniel suspected the most profit was to be had from the Mercordas. It was another cruel joke of life that they had no idea what they were really sitting on.

After a longer than expected pause, Jose looked up and said to Daniel, “Sir, have you ever been to St. John’s Church here in Belize Town?”

“I can’t say that I have,” responded Daniel, worrying about the conversation shifting towards things divine.

“Well, it’s a great church made during my lifetime. It must have taken half of my life to erect in full. I was always conscious of it being there and was always curious about it. Who decided to build it? Why did they choose that spot in Belize Town for it? Was it for the glory of those who built it or for the glory of God? All questions that I sit and still ponder while I sit outside of the church, looking at its different features. What really intrigues me though is not those questions or the answers to them, but how the thing was built and what it was built of. I know the answers to this in broad terms. Slaves and people of the town and church built it. An architect designed it. The bricks to make it were transported here from London. Some ship hands told me that the bricks were used as ballast on the way here.”

Daniel was getting slightly twitchy and nervous that Jose was veering too far of course. He was not here to help him build some sort of career, he was here to rob him. So, he interjected in between Jose’s breaths, “Fascinating, indeed my friend. Do you have interest in architecture?”

“Not at all, sir. Well, I have a passing admiration for it, but I have no skill in creativity. I would never make a good architect. It’s the idea that is magic to me. These bricks came half way across the world from London, where they were made, in order live out their existence as a church dedicated to St. John and most likely for the glory of God Almighty. Is that not amazing? And if they are able to that, then what is it that I can accomplish. I was made here, in Belize Town, but what if I was transported to London. Imagine what I could become there if these simple bricks can be transmuted into a great building here!”

Jose believe he had delivered his speech pitch perfect and Daniel couldn’t believe his luck. This person was absolutely desperate to make it to London, somewhere outside of where he was now. He may even make it, even though Daniel was going to fleece him completely.

“I see, my young friend,” Daniel began, “and I would very much like to be a conduit that assists you in reaching the heights that you seem to so desire. Your story is fascinating and it reminds me of how I felt once, while the wars still raged on. I see a worry on your face though, what is it?”

Of course, Daniel knew exactly what it was. Jose had so little to speak of in terms of wealth, so he was worried that he could not afford the deeds and bonds that Daniel spoke of. It was best to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth though.

“I’m afraid that I have so little to my name, sir. I could scrape together something, I’m sure. Will it be enough for you, I am not certain. So, before you respond, I appeal to your adventurous and generous spirit to find some way that will allow me to take part in this great dream that you have so warmly spoken of. Give me the chance to make it.”

Very good. The animal was snared and now Daniel just had to extract what had become rightfully his.

“I’m sure that we can find a way good friend. Let us just work through some preliminary details. First, do you have any family that would travel with you?”

“Yes, my twin sister Noemi would follow me anywhere and her spirit is stronger even than mine. She would take London by storm, no doubt,” Jose responded, beaming both of his sister and the possibility that they may actually be on their way to London in no time. He continued, “And my uncle, Tito, who lives with us. He is weak and sickly, but he must be able to make the journey. We couldn’t leave him behind.”

“It is a serious trip, you know. We can revisit this, but you must also understand that more people can me further cost.”

It had indeed occurred to him and so he said, “Again, I appeal to your generous spirit. We can muster what we will as a family and can travel without luxury. I simply ask that we can travel together.”

“Understood, my young friend. Understood. Second then, is what you have in mind for London. Where do you want to go, what do you plan to do?”

Jose had never thought that far ahead. Surely being there would be enough and then he would be able to discover what it was that he should do. If he had the bonds and the property from Daniel Perez, then he would have more than enough to last him while he figured this out. That, he reflected, did not sound like the best answer for this time, though, so he thought quickly and responded, “I always had in mind that I would set up my own shipping company. I have seen how it works here and believe that the only thing I lack is the starting capital. With the property you are so kindly offering at such value and the bonds in your associate’s company, I am sure that I will be able to manage this.”

There was nothing he would rather see the back of than the port, but it was all he really knew and so it made the most sense as a response. Looking at Daniel Perez, he believed that it had struck the right chord.

“And for the first part of my question, my young friend?”

“Well, I must admit, all I know of London is the map that you have just shown me and what some of the ship hands have told me from time to time. Nothing but mere anecdotes and here-say really. I was hoping that you could advise me on that.”

Too easy, but partially that made it more fun. Daniel removed the plan of London and its outlying areas from his case and laid it out on the ground as there was nothing obvious to use as a table. The two men crouched over it and began to study it. Both attempted to pretend they could see OK before conceding to themselves that it was impossible to make out any of the detail in this dimming light. So, Daniel walked quickly back into the tavern to fetch a lantern.

While Jose crouched alone, with a window into this new world that he was reaching for, he reflected. His uncle was a great man and would not want to deny anything to him or his sister. It had always beens one of his guiding principles for interactions with the twins. There was likely something linked with the fact that the twins had lost their parents at a relatively young age and been handed over to uncle Tito for care. Tito knew it was impossible for him to replace their parents, so he simply promised himself that he would not deny them anything that was within his reach. This was the key. If something was out of reach, he would explain to them both why that was and hope that they would not stay angry at him for long. Luckily for Tito, Jose and Noemi were two very understanding young children who quickly understood the realities of their situation and they did not pester Tito for much. When they did, he knew it was something important and he did his utmost to help him. At times, he even cut a few corners for them.

Jose was snapped out of his reflection with the sound and sight of Daniel making his way back to the map. He carried the promised lantern in his right hand and walked quickly yet suavely towards Jose. As he placed down the lantern he noted, “Not that great at all, but I’m sure we will need to meet again to discuss things in more detail and perhaps then we can find a time in the middle of the day instead. Still, I can give you a much better overview with this lantern.”

Gesturing to the left side of the map, Daniel noted, “Over here you have Hyde Park, Kensington, Little Chelsea and the areas of Bayswater and Craven Hill. All very lovely, but little going on in the way of the port business that you speak of. There isn’t much there at the moment and it can take some time to get into the heart of the action. Still, it depends on exactly what you have in mind for your new life as I do have a handful of lovely plots of land on this side. Unfortunately, this map does not extend to the area where I have some of the most affordable plots. There is a place called Parson’s Green which lies just beyond here, still North of the River Thames.”

Nodding along, Jose interjected, “That could indeed be ideal. What is this Parson’s Green like?”

“As the name suggests, it is very green indeed. There is a small parish church in the vicinity, but unlike your St. John’s church here, it was built some century ago or more.”

“I like the sound of this very much. The fact that you refer to it as affordable also soothes my heart. Would there be anything on this land?”

“That, I’m afraid, is part of the catch with this one. The plot is not large, but is enough for a small house with room to grow your own vegetables. Unfortunately, currently there are no vegetables growing there and not even the foundations of a house. I imagine, with the money you could receive for redeeming the bonds I will give you that you could build a great house. As you can understand, that won’t happen quickly though.”

This sounded both fantastic and far from ideal. Jose probed further, “Yes, not great, but let me hold that one as I think there could be something great in it for me eventually. Are there not some smaller properties closer to the docks where we could live?”

“If you look over here, beyond London City (which is marked out by this red line here) you will see a number of dock yards. Here for the West India Company and over here for the East India Company,” Daniel said as he quickly prodded at sections of the dimly lit map.

“Would there be affordable properties there?”

“There aren’t many residential properties there, as such. You see here though, where there is the London Docks? They are still in the process of considering to build this intended dock. For all I know, it could have commenced already. I digress though. Do you see this street here – Fox Lane? There is a small flat here that I have the deeds to. It is a two bedroom place, so you could just about fit your whole family”

Daniel rummaged through his bag, looking intently through the different stacks of deeds. The Fox Lane property was in here somewhere, but it wasn’t going to come out tonight. That would be too much too soon. Fox Lane was actually one of the more interesting deeds that Daniel had obtained. It, unlike the Parson’s Green land, was in fact a true deed for a leasehold. The shame for Jose was that this leasehold was only for 25 years. Starting from 1797. Which meant that by the time that Jose managed to get over to London, the lease would be up. He finally looked up at JOSE with disappointed eyes, “it really is a lovely property. They both are. I just seem to have left them with my other possessions.”

Disappointment was written all over Jose’s face, but Daniel was quick to comfort, “I think this is for the best, though, as it is almost impossible to see anything on this map and you wouldn’t have been able to properly review the deeds. I tell you what, why don’t I come and see you and your family for breakfast in the morning?”

Hope returned to Jose’s face briefly before he remembered that they had not properly discussed price. So he inquired, delicately, “this all sounds incredible, sir, but what will you expect in return?”

Daniel gave a smile that in better light may have been construed by Jose as sinister and said, “We will find a way, my young friend. I promise you, we will find a way.”

A scene set

Daniel Perez sat patiently waiting at the local Belize Town tavern. It didn’t have a specific name, it was just known as the tavern. When many ships were in port it was a rowdy old place filled with the hollers and laughs of sailors finding their land legs. At this point in the early evening, it was calm and civilised type of place. Exactly as Daniel wanted it.

He was sitting at a table outside on his own which had several empty spots. Within sight was the water. A sight to the great beyond and the thought of opportunity. His view, however, was facing in towards the tavern. There was no reason for him to see into the great beyond. That was not where his imagination needed to fly. For his guests it was the perfect view though. This tavern, the view was just a prop. One to propel the imagination of his guests. Likewise, he had a thick leather case filled with his other props.

Daniel’s case contained various artefacts from London. At least, they were from his version of London. A few pieces of paper stamped here and there and apostilled. Deeds, they were commonly referred to. Others were called bonds. These had little coupons attached to them which would provide the beater cash upon redemption at the London Stock Exchange. Just as his teacher had said, the props had to connect with whatever wonderful story you were telling to legitimise it.

Daniel had never forgotten his conversation with MacGregor. Parts of it had served him well since the wars. Others had left him in jail for short stints. There were learnings within all those experiences that had lead him to this important point.

Several young people were bound to come a visit him at one point or another during the evening. They were supposed to roughly coincide if his calculations were correct. It wasn’t necessary that they all arrived at the same time though. It was all part of the plan that they had different reasons to come see him. Hopefully, they would all be filled with a deep searching for something beyond Belize Town. Something different and something exciting. Enough that it would make them part with whatever hard saved assets they or their families had tucked away.

The con was not so much of a con. That’s what Daniel told himself. One part of his plan was simply to reinforce ideas that already stood idle or bubbling in the minds of other people. Sure, he may make some money off of it, but these people were being sold something that they desperately wanted

It hadn’t been so long since he sat there sipping his one short glass of rum. He didn’t want to drink too much as he knew too well how loose the tongue could become under the influence, so he had paid the barmen a hefty tip to ensure his court wouldn’t be disturbed and the illusion destroyed. Soon he hoped that his targets may come. Each has a different hook that brought them there and each a reason why Daniel thought it worth having them there.

None of them had been to London or even outside of the greater Belize Town area. Ship hands were the only people that really travelled in these parts. The rest were just trying to make their living. A story that echoed across the Americas.

Daniel began to further set his scene. He reached into his case a plucked out a map of London. Easier for people to picture their future with a guide. Easier to be convinced. Easier to see. It was no good just to lie the map out in plain view. Better for things to lie waiting in plain sight.

Another sip of his rum and the scene was ready for his unwilling actors.

First walking up to him was a young, short man with dark hair. He had never actually met Daniel, but had come to the tavern at this time based on an advertisement he saw about town promising a quick fortune. Daniel had placed these in locations where the well to do wouldn’t see them and wouldn’t report them. The man introduced himself to Daniel, “Are you Mr. Perez, sir?”

“Yes indeed. I suppose you have seen my advertisement.”

Hesitantly, the man nodded in response.

“And who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”

With equal hesitation, the man responded, “My name is Michael, sir.”

This was no good. The young man was on his own, come to explore the mighty promises of a piece of paper, only to immediately mistrust the whole affair simply because there were no others who did the same. Daniel couldn’t let his enterprise fall flat on its face before even starting. He had to think fast.

His first instinct was to start is story. To begin weaving the fantasy. Immediately he knew this was pointless. The young man, Michael, would see through it for sure or else his imagination would be so dry having been starved of what imagination thrives on, the encouragement from others. Keep it simple. That was the trick.

Michael remained standing while Daniel sat. Daniel expected that his best gambit to retain Michael’s attention was to divert it from the subject at hand.

As calmly and nonchalantly as he could muster, Daniel asked, “Could I get you a drink, young master Michael.”

A switch occurred in Michael’s eyes and he unconsciously licked his lips. This was the right method for sure, Daniel knew.

“I’ve been sipping at this quite delicious rum if that is what you had in mind. Or I could purchase you something else?”

After the briefest of pauses, Michael hastily said, “Yes please, sir. A rum would sit quite nicely in my belly after a hard days work.”

Michael sat and awaited his drink eagerly. Daniel sighed of deep relief on the inside while he poured a generous glass for his new friend.

“Do you know where this rum comes from, my young friend?”

This time Michael hesitated, but pensively as if to consider where rum cane from, before responding, “No, sir, but I imagine in the Caribbean somewhere.”

“Indeed it does, young boy. This rum comes from Jamaica. Not too far out into sea from here, yet a completely different world.”

“How so?”

“A combination of many dramatic thing and some small and hard to adequately describe. For instance, logging is no industry there. You’d find it impossible to make a living there with those skills,” and after a short pause, Daniel queried, “What is it that you find yourself doing in Belize Town, Michael.”

“Oh, I’ve always been in these parts, sir. As long as I can remember. Now I oversee some of the slaves logging.”

“Well, in Jamaica you might be able to do something similar, but nothing to do with logging.”

As Michael thought on this, a group of three young men and two women arrived. Their relationships were not outwardly clear. One came forward tentatively and asked of both Daniel and Michael, “Is this the meeting?”

“Indeed it is. A meeting of minds, a meeting of opportunity. Is that what you all want?”

Tentatively, the man looked at his companions and then to Daniel and finally to Michael, searching for an answer to this question that hung in the air. Michael nodded along with rum in hand as if to signal his own agreement that it was exactly that he wanted. So, with that simple act of unconscious thought, the chain reaction began.

With a small smile on his face Daniel ushered the new arrivals to sit down around the table and began to serve them all drinks as they chatted amongst themselves. Five more people arrived and felt much more comfortable with the buzz about the meeting that they barely hesitated when joining. The natural course of human relationships and trust quickly at work.

Some had come because of the advertisements and others because Daniel has enticed their compatriots to usher them along. Just as Daniel was getting ready to take center stage, Jose arrived carrying the purse that Daniel left behind. Before Jose could reach him to give it back, Daniel had moved to the side of the table nearest to water and began his work.

Jose didn’t have seat in what now amounted to a small throng of young people ready to listen to Daniel Perez’ presentation. He stood to one side so as not to cause any raucous and disturb.

“…many people leave London in order to find opportunity in settlements. What are they running from? Why do the seek out these parts, I hear you ask. They lack land. In their minds, land is a fantasy. The unachievable dream is to own land. It is a life of work for oneself that they truly seek. Yet their lives are still filled with toil, sweat and eventually death. Will their heirs have more than them? Yes and that is a noble end.”

The mass gathered about Daniel, listening intently and staring out at the sea into the beyond were confused. They owned small plots of land here, all of them. It was their livelihoods and so was the additional toil. Life was not pure suffering for them, but they all wanted more. None could figure out how what Daniel told them could fix any of that.

“What does all this have to do with us, sir,” asked one of them.

“Nothing and everything. Their desires are not much different from most people. A desire for something better, first. If that doesn’t kill them and it’s still unachievable, a better life for whoever comes after them. Others have worse fates thrust upon them. A rarer few thrust fates upon others because they can and will it. The final, lucky group decide for themselves.”

These ideas hung in the air for these young people to absorb. There was little time to dream up such ideas in their own time, but hearing them made them seem so self evidently true. None, including Jose, could quite understand exactly what any of this had to do with them, but the idea of being in control of their own destinies was tantalising.

A moment had passed without Daniel saying a further word. His captive audience started to look at each other side to side, whispering. Questioning. This was his next cue.

“The old man hasn’t answered your question dear friend,” Daniel began, “and for this I am sorry, but I do get carried away with myself. Having fought in wars and lived to make my own life in this wide world, I can’t help myself. My mission is to ensure that others can do the same.”

Then the penny dropped for Jose and he asked, “You are saying their is a greater opportunity for us beyond Belize Town, sir?”

That was the question. The trigger to properly delve into what he, humble Daniel Perez, had to offer to these fine young folk.

“There is. Beyond these waters you can seize control of a different destiny.”

Eyes were wide at the thought, but also the cost. Daniel had just explained to them how hard it was to control your own destiny and how few managed to do so. In the face of all of this, how could they possibly do what he says?

“I know, I know. It is a daunting thought and task. As I said, my mission is to help. I haven’t gather the older or the professionals amongst your town, but you. The young and unattached. Those who have the will power necessary if only they got a boost. I am that boost.”

Daniel reached into his case and brought out a large folding map of a city which he spread out on the table, securing each corner with artefacts. A bag of coins in one corner, a compass in another, an engraved silver flask and finally his dagger pinning down the final corner. The group bunched in closer to the table so they could all have a proper view of the map. A map that none of them understood or recognised. It looked like a sprawl of jungle with paths cutting through it. It was of course, a sort of jungle, being a map of London.

“I present to you, the city of London and its outlying areas, Westminster and the Borough of Southwark. This map is a couple of years old with the forethought to include planned new buildings and streets showing the ever improving capital city. Darton, the man who drew up this plan, was wise enough to do so. Look at all of these areas marked in yellow. This is the colour and she of opportunity. What lies in wait fro those in London if they have the correct means.”

Why a map of London. Were not all those people trying to escape London for the settlements? It made no sense to the majority gathered around the table, even though the idea of the city was interesting to some.

“What is so great about London, sir, that we should want to go there?” Asked one, but truly on behalf of all.

Daniel Perez paused to dwell on this question. The tension of an unknown, of soul searching before answering, had a good effect on the touch points in peoples imaginations and hearts. He had, of course, never actually been to London. His lengthy conversation with the General, Sir MacGregor, was the only real detail he had about London and when he was speaking to him the knowledge would have been several years out of date. Still, MacGregor enjoyed very much talking and he did not hold back once Daniel had moved the subject away from his conning techniques.

London was a fantastic idea though, even though Daniel knew very little of it. Besides MacGregor’s anecdotes, Daniel had also managed to obtain this very good map of London from a Captain that he was gambling with. As soon as he saw it he knew that it would serve as a cornerstone to his plan.

After his small, reflective pause, Daniel responded with flair, “Ordinarily, there would be no great reason for you to want to go there or indeed for you to even be able to go there. However, I have the means to gain you access to the best that London has to offer and in turn this will as a matter of fact mean that you have access tot the very best that the world has to offer. Is that not something great, my friend? I think it is.”

Still sceptical, the one youth asked, “What of the weather and of the space? How can these be overcome? I’m not convinced.”

“Then, please, I beg that you do not allow me to wasted any more of your time young man.”

Not quite the answer that people expected, which only increased Daniel’s credibility. The young man was quite embarrassed by the quick rebuke that cast aside his doubts and decided it was best that he wander off. Daniel could not have asked for a better turn of events.

“Good bye, young man. Please do look me up if you’d like to hear more. Now, all the better for the rest of you as there will be one less person in competition.”

There it was, what Daniel considered his piece de resistance. Not exactly in line with MacGregor’s desire to maximise volume with his charm and conviction, but he liked it nonetheless. Con a few people for all they had and ensure competition so that it doesn’t come back to bite you big time. He also felt that it would get people even more interested, which was very much becoming the case here. It was written plainly on their faces even though they didn’t know what it was. They worried. They feared. That they would miss out.

He looked around at their faces, with a sad face. This is what he wanted to them to see. His glee on the inside was not suitable for public consumption.

“Yes, I’m afraid that, though I wish that I could help each and every one of you. It simply isn’t the case that I can. With anything in life, I must distribute what I have as I consider most fair. You may not agree with my final determination and you may even be angry with me. These are all things that I have considered and that I am willing to live with.”

Daniel paused to see if someone would ask the final question, the one he had been waiting for. It didn’t come, however. This was OK. All had gone so closely to plan that it wasn’t a problem to have to push them over the finishing line. His unwitting actors had already helped to set the stage so much.

“Looking at all your faces filled with equal measures of hope and confusion, I know that there is one question that you are all simply to modest to ask: ‘What is it that you have to offer?’ There is a very good answer,” he said as he furnished out a set of deeds that he had stored in his case, “and these are the key.”

The bewildered faces of those gathered made him sigh a slight bit of relief. His forger had been good enough, but you never knew if anyone would actually know what a proper deed looked like. Daniel himself had only seen a certain handful of a certain type, so it was a bit of a gamble, but one he had chosen carefully to take. It was always a risk. So was his entire enterprise.

“They are deeds. Paper that means the bearer owns the land or property described within them. The property that these deeds describe are all in London and its surroundings. This is the gift that I have for you: I will subsidise your purchasing of these by giving them to you at a major discount. On top of that, I have contacts with many of the Captains who travel between here and London and I will ensure that you have affordable passage to your new homes.”

Excitement and despair filled the eyes of all around. Even with the help of Daniel Perez, this seemed like a dream too far. Michael, who had first sat with Daniel, asked, as if behalf of all of them gathered, “How can we afford this, sir? It seems a step too far for us with so little.”

“Two ways. First, you will give me what you can, including any small plots of land that you may have here. Any wood or other valuables that you have access to. Any coin that you have. Second, my true gift to you will be these bonds with a face value of One Thousand Pounds Sterling from the Mercantile General Composite Company. This is a company of my associates in London and they are worth potentially more than the paper they are written on as the company is of such good repute. Some bonds are worthless, but these you can sell on to almost any man in the street at perhaps a small discount for the convenience. Together these pieces of paper along and a short passage across the Atlantic and you will have a new and prosperous life.”

Michael continued to speak for the assembled group, “What if our savings. Everything we have is worth so little?”

“I will speak to each of you to understand your situations. Ultimately, I may not be able to help you now. I will not forget you though, as I have saved up this stock of deeds and bonds. You may returns when you have the right amount.”

Michael looked around at the others and then quickly said, “Please, sir, allow me to be the first to put myself forward. If we can find somewhere more private, I will explain everything that I have.”

This was followed by a throng of interested young people waving their hands and trying to get Daniel to notice them. Exactly as he had planned. There were no assets in the bank, but step one of his plan was an exemplary success. He raised his hand and asked the assembled to be quiet.

“Please, my friends, I will speak to each of you in turn. I promise you. Let me speak to our friend Michael here and if you would all write down your names, I will take you one at a time.”

With that he took Michael by the arm and began walking him to a quieter part of the tavern.

Jose panicked. How would he be able to sleep without knowing what it was that he might have in store for his future. Having stayed slightly beyond the major group, he now quickly made his way to Daniel. “Mr. Perez, Mr. Perez! Please, I have something of yours that you left down at the docks.”

Excellent, Daniel thought to himself. The young boy with the unknown fortune had taken the bait. Musn’t be to eager though. “Yes, my young friend, I will see you all, but please write your name down with the others,” he said as partially dismissively as he possibly could, withholding his pleasure.

“But, sir, I have the bag of coins that you left down at the docks.”

Daniel made a play of checking around in his pockets and then said, in the most aloof fashion he could muster, “It appears that you are absolutely correct. I am eternally grateful to you.”

With that he gestured for Jose to give him the purse. He began walking away and then turned back to Jose. In a whisper, he said, “Meet me around back and I will come and speak to you just after Michael. I’m afraid to let you cut so brazenly would not do well for the others. You understand, I hope?”

Jose nodded and then wandered off as Daniel took Michael into the tavern.

Both felt that they had gotten the best of the interaction.

Belize Town

Jose Mecorda sat taking a rare break staring at the spire of the St John’s Church. The Church had always held Jose’s imagination. When they had started building in back in 1812, he had been a young boy and he wondered when those markings in the ground and piles of materials would actually be turned into something. People around him, including his parents, had told him that men would come and they would rearrange to materials into a grand Church. As can often be the case with some children, Jose was not convinced. Even when his dad told him that he would be working on building the Church, Joe was still not sure. On the one hand, he did not believe that his father would lie, but it was all to surreal for him. Meanwhile, his twin sister, Noemi, took it all at face value. She had other things on her mind.

Time moved on and Jose could see the Church slowly forming. Now he was sure that someone was doing something, but he couldn’t believe that it would ever be completed. At least not in his lifetime. Sure enough though, eight years sailed by bringing people in on boats and lumber out and the Church was finally completed. It was something that stuck in his mind, this Church. Not for any religious reason. It was just that something he did not believe could happen did. People told him that it was true. Still, he refused to believe it until his eyes confirmed it was so.

Since that time, Jose had reevaluated how he looked at certain things. Some things had to be taken on faith and then confirmed. That was the way of life.

The spire was just a point. It announced far and wide that the Church was there. Then, as you looked down, you saw the yellow brick. Jose had found out when he grew slightly older and as the construction continued that the bricks had come from England abroad ships as something called ballast. Once a sailor had explained this concept to him, but he allowed it to go in one ear and out the other. Still, the idea that material had been transported over such a distance and then turned into this, with its tower, spire and fitted wood interiors was an amazing thought. Jose knew things about timber as was not uncommon in these parts. He couldn’t name many things that he was terribly good at though. His place in the world was uncertain and this Church both reminded him of this fact and reinforced the idea that anything is possible. One day there was no Church there and now it was hard to remember what the area looked like before it.

As the sun continued its trot along the mid morning sky, the heat began to increase and Jose knew it was time to get back to his errands. He enjoyed taking a moment. Reality beckoned him back to his station though, working under a clerk who was assisting in the export of lumber. Like almost everyone in Belize City, Jose had little choice but to work in logging. He did not mind it. Yet satisfaction was out of sight.

Belize Town was not a place of scale, but it was the centre of all things in the region, so life wasn’t nearly has hard as it could be. Jose reflected on this as he wandered down from the Church to the port. Along the way he picked up some food for the clerk. Classic food of beans and rice. Nothing fancy, but what they got by with in this part of the world. He hurried his pace to a quick trot in order to make up for the moment he spent admiring the Church.

John Carston had his head in a book as usual when Jose came quickly through the back entrance of their small clerks office. Exporting was not exactly done by the books, but someone always needed to keep record even if it was not entirely accurate to an objective observer. A log of mahogany left of the manifest here and there never hurt anyone. Jose did not feel the wrath like the sorry souls that were taken as slaves that were forced to work collecting the lumber. He was, after all, a free man. His station was not that of John’s though. There were clear lines between master and apprentice.

Without looking up from his book, John dryly asked, “And where have you been Jose?”

Jose hesitated. A poor hesitation for his sake.

“Day dreaming on my time,” John answered himself. He had already made up his mind. The only question now was whether there would be a punishment.

His hesitation dispersed and Jose quickly interjected, “It’a the truth Master John. I stood for a moment admiring the spire of the Church. An act which could most certainly be construed as day dreaming, sir.”

A quick reply is what John always liked best. It had to have level of humble and defiant. What good was a wimp when the tax man came to question the books and what use was a scoundrel that simply got people’s backs up. This one just about passed.

“Ah, the Church again. Very devout, I see.”

“Yes sir. Though it’s more the fact that the Church exists out here at all that spurs the day dreaming.”

Typically, Jose never expanded beyond a simple statement such as this when speaking outside of his family. If people wanted more, they would ask. On this occasion, John couldn’t help himself.

John looked up from his book to Jose, who was playing up food and asked, “please do expand young Jose.”

“Well, for instance, when I was a young boy, the building did not exist at all. The mere fact that such a structure can be built is worth dreaming of. How was it done? Who were the people that built it? Why did they do it? For the glory of God? For their livelihoods? For their own glory?”

John nodded in a way that indicated he was paying attention and reflecting on all these questions, but not necessarily agreeing with them. When no comment came, Jose continued.

“Then there are the bricks. They’ve come from London. Somewhere near by at least. They’ve come all the way here, to Belize Town, in ships from your fatherland. I know nothing of London and yet the fact that we had to use bricks brought from there makes me in awe of it. All of that is worth dreaming about.”

“I see, my boy. Well, I can quite confidently tell you that it’s simply a Church, built for the Glory of God and to allow the congregation to worship him. Everything else is of no interest. How is that food coming along.”

John didn’t understand. It was OK. In fact, it was better that he didn’t understand too much. Jose didn’t know and understands John’s dreams and there was no reason he should understand Jose’s. So, he quietly finished up his work with the food an handed John his plate. They quietly ate while returning to their work.

As with most other days, this one lulled on at the pace of a diligently scratching pen. Sometimes moments would whoosh by in the excitement of a visit and others would pause in excruciating contemplation. Jose wouldn’t have minded so much if the ‘exciting’ points were only exciting because they made the time disappear. His day dreaming was so frequent that people noticed, but no one quite understood what it was he wanted. They were out on the frontier. All of the British said as much and none of them yearned for home despite the seeming pressures of life here. That was all well for them. For Jose there had to be something beyond what he was doing.

Money came to Jose through his work with John and then promptly exited out into the basics and care on his uncle. He did not for one second resent his uncle in this respect. It was a joy to have him in his life, together with his twin sister, given that their parents had died so many years back. Neither he nor his sister liked to speak of it and instead they pored their energy into work and taking care of their uncle. That was life and it suited when you didn’t have time to day dream.

After looking down at papers for so long, Jose looked up at the clock that John kept on the wall of their little office. It was almost time to pack up and head home and his heart rose. He knew that it was highly unwise to rush the packing up, so he moved some of his papers into their proper homes and then took a separate stack into the small back office, while John carried away near the front entrance. There was nothing to actually do with the separate stack of papers, but it looked like he was doing something and he assumed that John thought as much. The door was ajar and he could hear John when a man entered the front door, even though John’s back was to him.

“Hello, sir, how is it that I can be of service” John asked the gentleman that entered. The gentleman was of medium build with dark hair, clean shaven face and impeccable clothing. There was no doubt that this man had made his turn on some industry or other.

“My name is Daniel Perez, I’m in from London. Who do I have the pleasure of speaking to?” The gentleman asked so eloquently that Jose could sense John blushing with embarrassment over the fact that he had not properly introduced himself.

“Beg your pardon, sir. John Carston, sir, at your service.”

“Very good, Mr. Carston. I’m not from around this immediate area and I was hoping to be introduced to some fine young men who may be of assistance to me. This appears to be the most populated area around here. Is that so, Mr. Carston?”

Jose was utterly intrigued. What could this Mr. Perez want. He says he is from London, but he looks nothing like a Londoner. Nothing like a British gentleman at all. It didn’t make sense, so he listened further whilst pretending to work.

“That’s a relatively fair assessment, sir. May I ask, you don’t seem to be a London native. In fact, I would have guessed that you were from around these parts. Where are you from exactly, sir?”

The man breathed a light sigh, like he had been asked to tell the coming story a million times.

“Nothing gets past you Mr. Carston. A fair question indeed and one I relish in responding to at every occasion. You see, I’m originally from Venezuela to the South. After fighting under Bolivar and surviving all that came, I was lucky enough to come into the employ of one of the English General’s who offered their services to the cause. I helped him extensively with some shipping business and was able to make a significant turn myself. With that, I made way to London. The place I had heard so much about and yet had no understanding of. You may find me crazy for having such a strong desire to find my way there, but it was calling me. I found London a captivating city and such an adventure compared to the relative outback we find ourselves in here. Well, at least where we find ourselves now. Once upon a time I believe my forebears had a great city here.”

“I see, how fascinating. What brings you here then. Despite the stated intention for young men to help you with some scheme?”

“It’s really as simple as that, Mr. Carston. I know shipping, so I found the place where I could interact with one of my own. A man who understood how the world worked and where I might find some young friends to help me with my endeavour.”

Daniel came closer to John at this point and said something in such a low voice that Jose could not make it out. Even without the final piece of information, Jose was extremely excited. He couldn’t possibly talk to this Daniel man in front of John, but he had to find him.

For now, Jose resolved, it was best to get back to pretending to work. When Daniel left, he would go and enquire to John about him, in the most subtle way he could possibly muster. After all of the talk of day dreaming, there was no point in startling John. It would serve no purpose and likely make John even more closed about the subject.

Jose heard the door swing shut and he finally allowed himself to look up again. John went straight back to his books as he was always bound to. How could he not be intrigued, thought Jose. It’s not as if he was that old. There could be adventure in it for him as well. There was no point in trying to persuade the cow to fly as Jose knew too well.

Shuffling papers and making his way towards John’s desk to take away and rubbish, Jose casually as he could asked, “Who was that master?”

“Oh, just some man.”

“Did he want anything specific? Anything I can be of assistance with?”

“He was a shipping merchant, just looking for some advice. Nothing that I think you could be of great assistance with.”

It was infuriating for Jose. He heard what Daniel said. There was almost no way he could have been clearer but to print an advertisement and positing it around town asking for young men to come and adventure with him. How could he get John to tell him so that he could find out where Daniel went. His blood boiled and it made it impossible to think of any constructive answer to his problem.

Then a Godsend. Daniel’s purse was left on the counter of John’s desk. There was no way that John would ever seek to deliver it to the man himself. That was the kind of job he delighted in delegating to Jose. Perhaps he was in luck. His boiling blood subsided.

“What’s that, Master? Is that the man’s purse?” Jose inquired as he continued to clean.

“Ah, indeed it is. The poor man will likely be desperate to be reunited with it as he mentioned that he was heading to the tavern.”

Jose wanted so much to volunteer, but he knew it was the wrong way to get what he wanted. So, he collected the remaining rubbish and papers and put everything away in their spot. When he was all done he walked back up to John to say goodnight.

“Goodnight, master.”

“And to you Jose,” John responded, before continuing, “perhaps you could take the gentleman’s purse down to him. I believe the tavern is on your route in any event.”

With a little patience and knowing his mark, Jose had achieved exactly what he wanted. As he grabbed the purse and trotted off towards the tavern he would not have been so excited to learn that John had a purse of equal size tucked away under his desk. A reward for instilling the right behaviours in his juniors. Something for having patience and for knowing his mark.


Back on the proverbial horse after the quiet march, I’ve now written a few more thousand words and I also finished plotting out most of the rest of the story I was writing for the competition.  I think that I might be able to finish it in the next couple of months which would be […]